Immigrants, Guns, and Congress

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Immigrants, Guns, and Congress

According to the Gun Violence Archive as of July 29, 2015 there had been 7,360 deaths in the United states in which the gun was the important actor. (Photo: Alyeska/Wikimedia/cc)

Such as do build their faith upon,
The holy text of pike and gun.
—Samuel Butler, Hudibras

It depends on two things-who is the actor and who is the victim. Those two things determine how people respond. The one thing it does not depend on is what the actor used to create the victim. It all came to mind during the month of July. July 26th was the 207th day of the year 2015 and that was the day that we celebrated the 206th mass shooting of the year. That does not mean that there had only been 206 occasions when guns were in the news. Quite the contrary. According to the Gun Violence Archive as of July 29, 2015 there had been 7,360 deaths in the United states in which the gun was the important actor. The individual activities of the gun, however, do not, normally, inspire a lot of response except from the usual people who use frequent gun related incidents to suggest there should be some sort of gun control in this country. Mass shootings, on the other hand, get a great deal of attention. Not all mass shootings are the same and responses to them vary.

In the case of the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting in 2013 there was a suggestion from the NRA that there should be armed guards in every school in the country but that suggestion was never acted on in part, perhaps because that would have required as many as one million newly armed guards. Following the July 26, 2015 movie theater shooting in Lafayette, Louisiana, presidential candidate Rick Perry was asked whether the proper response to movie shootings should be to permit all attendees to bring weapons with them. The former governor responded that the proposal made “a lot of sense”. There is little question but that the possibility of a movie shooter being suddenly confronted in the dimly lit space with a theater full of armed patrons who begin shooting at whomever the patron believed fired first would introduce a sense of calm and security to moviegoers that is presently lacking.

Churchgoers would also be better off if fellow worshippers were armed. Churches are typically well lit so that the possibility of a firefight erupting in the church and the wrong people being shot seems less likely. Attendees could, therefore, worship in a peaceful place, secure in the knowledge that an armed intruder would be swiftly dispatched to his maker.

With respect to the shooting in Chattanooga, TN that resulted in the death of military personnel, U.S. Attorney Bill Killian said that the shootings in that city are being investigated as an “act of domestic terrorism” although as of this writing the act has not been classified as a terrorist act. It is not clear why that shooting should be dealt with any differently from the other acts of violence that July gave us except that the victims happened to be military personnel.

Aside from Rick Perry’s agreement with the suggestion that movie theaters should become armed camps, only one of the many shootings that took place during July elicited a response from members of Congress and the occasion was not a mass shooting. It was the shooting of Kate Steinle on July 1, 2015. She was shot and killed by Juan Francisco Lopez Sanchez, a Mexican native who had seven felony convictions in this country and had made a number of illegal entries. Although she was only the 2d person shot during the month of July, her death evoked a strong response from members of Congress. To everyone’s surprise, however, the Congressional response did not finally acknowledge the need for something to be done about all the guns in this country. Instead it precipitated a call to, of all things, do something about illegal immigration. Members of Congress who spoke publicly were not concerned that this was simply the latest of several hundred gun inspired death that had already occurred in the United States during 2015. They were upset that the shooter was an illegal immigrant.

Less than a week before they rushed home for their well-deserved five weeks of rest and relaxation, a variety of bills was introduced to crack down on illegal immigration. The legislation was aimed at cutting off funding to so called “sanctuary cities”, localities that offer safe harbor to illegal immigrants. Rep. Steve King of Iowa explained that “The appetite for amnesty has diminished dramatically after we see the carnage in the streets of America at the hands of criminal aliens that should’ve been removed from the country. That means that now, the climate is much better to try to move down the line on enforcement.” The fact that not any of the well-known mass shootings over the last few years has been conducted by a criminal alien is of no moment as far as members of Congress are concerned. Referring to the Steinle killing, Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas pulled an idea out of the cloud in which many members of Congress get their best ideas. He said: “Someone in this administration probably should be arrested for negligent homicide or for any of another dozen crimes that are so frequently committed by illegal immigrants in this country who shouldn’t even be here.” Someone should tell Rep. Smith that it’s not illegal immigrants that are the problem-it’s the guns.

Christopher Brauchli

Christopher Brauchli is a columnist and lawyer known nationally for his work. He is a graduate of Harvard University and the University of Colorado School of Law where he served on the Board of Editors of the Rocky Mountain Law Review. He can be emailed at brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu. For political commentary see his web page at http://humanraceandothersports.com

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