Border Control vs. Gun Control

The Pulse night club massacre was the latest in a series of Islamic terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, quite a few of which have succeeded, while others have been foiled. These attacks have used a variety of weapons: box cutters, knives, pistols, pressure cookers and rifles. There is a sharp partisan divide with respect to how such terrorist attacks should be viewed.

Republicans say that we should try harder to keep potential terrorists out of the country. Since we have no practical way to vet immigrants, and, in any event, Islamic extremists tend to be second generation Muslims like Omar Mateen, the only realistic way to do this is by reducing, or suspending altogether, immigration from Muslim-dominated countries. This is Donald Trump’s proposal.

That would be a radical departure from present practice. Senator Jeff Sessions’ Senate subcommittee has released this chart, which shows that the Obama administration will soon have issued one million green cards to immigrants from Islamic countries. Click to enlarge:

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Sessions’ office adds this explanation:

Between FY 2013 and FY 2014, the number of green cards issued to migrants from Muslim-majority countries increased dramatically – from 117,423 in FY 2013, to 148,810 in FY 2014, a nearly 27 percent increase. Throughout the Obama Administration’s tenure, the United States has issued green cards to an average of 138,669 migrants from Muslim-majority countries per year, meaning that it is nearly certain the United States will have issued green cards to at least 1.1 million migrants from Muslim-majority countries on the President’s watch. It has also been reported that migration from Muslim-majority countries represents the fastest growing class of migrants.

Notably, the 832,014 figure does not include temporary, nonimmigrant visas issued to migrants who come to the United States simply to work, nor does it include those who have come to the United States on temporary visas and overstayed their authorized period of admission.

Among those receiving green cards are individuals admitted to the United States as refugees, who are required to apply for adjustment to Lawful Permanent Resident (green card) status within 1 year of admission. A green card entitles recipients to access federal benefits, lifetime residency, work authorization, and a direct route to becoming a U.S. citizen.

Why are we doing this? When did we vote for it? Who decided that it was a good idea to import, for example, 102,000 Pakistanis? A few of them are doctors and so on, but what about the rest? Why do we need them? We know the downside, what is the upside?

There are 37,000 Somalis on the list. Hardly any of these are physicians, scientists, etc., and most have been shipped to my home state. Why? More than 50% of Somali-American men in Minnesota are not in the labor force. On what theory does this benefit the United States? I have never seen such a rationale articulated.

No doubt the majority of these million-plus Muslims are good people. But no one questions that some percentage of them will turn out to be terrorists or terrorist sympathizers. Or their sons and daughters will be. No one knows what that proportion is, but even if it is small, the risk is large. Why are we taking it?

Democrats don’t think this way at all. They say it is impossible to know who will turn out to be a terrorist, and therefore, the best we can do is to make sure that would-be terrorists don’t have guns. The solution to the problem of Islamic terrorism (not that any Democrat admits that Islamic terrorism is a problem) is gun control.

To support this interpretation of events, Democrats portray Islamic terrorists as indistinguishable from crazy people who commit similar outrages–people like Seung-Hui Cho, Adam Lanza, Eric Harris and Charles Whitman. Islamic terror, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton tell us, has nothing to do with Islam. It is just random insanity. On that theory, it is pointless to keep out any category of immigrants, and preventing future terrorist attacks mass murder incidents is pretty much hopeless. All we can do is try to prevent murderers from obtaining firearms (or certain firearms, anyway) so that their victims might be fewer in number.

And yet…there does seem to be something going on here. David French reminds us of what has happened, just during the last two years:

* From April to June, 2014, Ali Muhammed Brown killed four Americans on a “mission of vengeance” against the United States.

* On September 25, 2014, Alton Nolen beheaded an Oklahoma woman with a knife. His social media pages were covered with evidence of jihadist leanings and motivations.

* On May 3, 2015, Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi attacked an exhibit of Mohammed images in Garland, Texas. They wounded a security officer, but police killed them before they were able to carry out mass murder.

* On July 16, 2015, Mohammad Abdulazeez killed five people at two Chattanooga recruiting stations. FBI director James Comey declared that Abdulazeez was “inspired/motivated” by terrorist propaganda.

* On November 4, 2015, Faisal Mohammed went on an ISIS-inspired stabbing spree — wounding four — before he was killed by campus police.

* On December 2, 2015, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik pledged allegiance to ISIS then killed 14 people and wounded 21 at a Christmas party in San Bernardino, Calif.

* On January 8, 2015, Edward Archer pledged himself to ISIS and attempted to assassinate a Philadelphia police officer. The wounded officer chased down and apprehended Archer before he could commit any other acts of violence.

* On June 12, 2016, Omar Mateen pledged himself to ISIS and killed 49 people and wounded 53 at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

The Europeans could add many more to that list. Somehow, the random insanity theory doesn’t seem to fit.

Moreover, we now know that Omar Mateen’s wife–who, like so many Islamic radicals, grew up wealthy–knew about his plans for mass murder in the name of Allah, accompanied him when he scoped out murder venues and bought ammunition, and exchanged texts with him as he carried out his “mission.” And it came out today that Mateen’s brother in law refuses to say whether he knew about Mateen’s plan for jihad.

Consider the other mass murderers who, liberals say, were just like Mateen and the many other Islamic terrorists. Did Adam Lanza’s relatives know about his plans? Did they help him carry them out? Of course not. Lanza’s plan included murdering his mother. It is only Islamic terrorists whose cries of “Allahu Akbar!” as they open fire are joined in by accomplices and supporters. This isn’t random insanity, it is a global movement.

Those are arguments for immigration control. How about the Democrats’ arguments for more gun control? Would their proposals do any good?

The Democrats want to ban semi-automatic rifles, but only if they are black. (There is a funny Twitter meme–a picture of an AR-15 that says, “It’s because I’m black, isn’t it?”) This is an amazingly dumb idea. Rifles are the least popular murder weapons, ranking well below blunt objects, knives, shotguns and bare hands. Democrats say: but you can kill so many, so fast, with a rifle! News flash: you can pull the trigger on a pistol just as fast as on a rifle, and, unless you are 50 yards or more distant, which is never the case in a mass murder situation, the pistol is just as lethal.

Democrats also want anyone on the FBI’s no-fly list to be barred from buying guns. Intuitively, that sounds like a good idea. But the first problem is that the no-fly list is a joke. Ted Kennedy was on it, Omar Mateen wasn’t. As far as we know, not a single murderer, terrorist or otherwise, has ever been on the no-fly list. (I assume for this purpose that Kennedy’s grossly negligent drowning of Mary Jo Kopechne was not murder.) So best case, the no-fly ban does no good.

The second problem is that the no-fly list is concocted in secret and there is no way to get off it. This is a significant civil rights issue. The NRA says that the FBI should have to go through a judge, the equivalent of a search warrant, and show probable cause to put someone on the list.

The third problem, and the reason why the FBI opposes the Democrats’ proposal, is that it gives actual terrorists an easy way to find out whether the authorities are on to them: try to buy a gun. So the Democrats’ plan to ban anyone on the no-fly list from buying a gun is at best ill-considered.

More broadly, the Democrats’ core idea–go ahead and admit lots of potential terrorists, but don’t let them get their hands on a gun–flies in the face of reality. Convicted criminals are legally prohibited from buying guns. Does that prevent them from being armed? Of course not. Further, has any terrorist attack ever been thwarted because the would-be terrorist couldn’t find a gun? Not that I know of. A fundamental problem with all gun control proposals is that law-abiding citizens will follow them, but criminals (including, above all, terrorists) will not.

As is so often the case, the Democrats’ proposals are intended to gain political advantage, not to produce positive results. Nevertheless, the Democrats seem to have succeeded in converting the debate over the terrorist attack in Orlando to one about gun control. This is sad, but but doesn’t change reality: while neither approach is a panacea, it makes much more sense to control our borders than to admit all comers and try to foil terrorists through even more gun control measures than are already in place.

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