The calls started almost immediately.
It’s the typical reaction by Democrats after every high-profile shooting. It’s also the typical reaction by Republicans after a high-profile crime involving an illegal immigrant.
This shouldn’t be surprising because bogeymen exist in all ideologies. The Green Party member sees anything putting out exhaust as harmful to the environment and desires its destruction. The social conservative sees anything which runs counter to their own personal values as something which needs to be either avoided or eliminated. The socialist – democratic or otherwise – sees free markets as the bane of the proletariat and wants to bring them under the state’s heel. Libertarians of almost all stripes – rightly – see government as a blight on freedom and seek to either eliminate the state or weaken it so people hardly ever have to feel its oppressive nature.
Yet, Democrats and Republicans get the most attention because they are the two dominant parties in American culture. They’re the ones who get to set the narrative and enjoy the most news coverage versus those whose influence is rendered almost null and void due to the political shenanigans of Democrats and Republicans.
There are those for whom the bogeyman is all too real. The families who have suffered loss at the hands of a gun or an illegal immigrant all have actual wounds which take time to heal – and may never heal. It makes sense for them to support laws which restrict weapons or the mythical Great Wall of America on the southern border. They need to be confronted with compassion and understanding even though it’s likely their opinions will never change. Anything else simply gives them more fuel for their own pain and anger and risks alienating those simply watching on the sidelines at the political debate.
It’s rather disgusting – but completely unsurprising – politicians, pundits, and activist groups decide to take advantage of the suffering of victims and their families to push new laws. These unscrupulous grifters (they are politicians or agenda drivers after all) are simply looking to enhance their own power by telling the public, “See…I/we did something!”. The reality is they’re hammering out laws which would make the ghosts of Woodrow Wilson, FDR, and John Adams all give a Montgomery Burns-like “excellent” at the expansion of the government at the sacrifice of freedom.
The grifters of all stripes are taking advantage of the silly billy public’s fear of the unknown by purposefully twisting The Truth about guns and illegal immigrants into something so unrecognizable, it becomes a twisted looking glass.
Let’s start with guns, the bogeyman of the Democrats. They consider guns a menace to society and one the founders of the Republic didn’t recognize when the Constitution was written.
“We the People face a crisis. A mortal crisis. Every year tens of thousands of innocent people are killed or seriously wounded by guns,” No Rifle Association swears in their Gun Safety Bill of Rights. “And yet, as much as we seek to enact gun-safety and gun-control legislation, we find ourselves stymied from doing so by the NRA and the politicians it owns.”
The Truth is much more complicated than NoRA professes. It is a fact – if the CDC is to be believed – homicides by firearms went up in 2016 to over 14K compared to around 13K in 2015. Yet, these stats do not include a breakdown of whether these homicides were done in self-defense or later ruled legally justified. It’s a key fact which is excluded in the research – and something there is minimal research on save for a Harvard study from 2011.
The stats also do not include how many shooting deaths were the result of criminal on criminal action – another key factor. It would be curious to see a further breakdown of the circumstances of the shootings, the motive, and who was involved. It is beyond foolish to not consider mitigating factors of a homicide and simply ‘blame the gun’ for causing the deaths.
There are much bigger scourges on the American public than firearms homicides. Automobile deaths are rising from 37K in 2015 to 40K in 2016. Falls are also rising from 33K in 2015 to 34K in 2016. Yet, no one is demanding the government (federal, state, or local) ban vehicles or require everyone to live in a plastic-enclosed bubble to prevent falls. If anything, the government is doing more to encourage auto usage through road construction and suggesting more people need to get out and be active (A car advertisement I just saw on TV even encouraged adventure! This is simply meant as an aside to show American culture is moving towards getting out and doing stuff).
Yet, Democrats decide to make their bogeyman the gun and do all they can to foment fear of it. It is completely true firearms can be scary – especially when someone has no experience with them. The reality is guns are as fearsome as vehicles. They are a tool which can be used for ill or for good. One needs to realize this when confronting the issue of guns in America.
Now we turn to the bogeyman of Republicans: illegal immigration.
The GOP, at times, makes it seem like illegal immigrants are a scourge on all Americans – infesting the streets with crime and making it more necessary for police powers to be expanded.
“The murder of Mollie Tibbetts or Kate Steinle can be particularly hard to take because of a simple, anguished declaration,” David French wrote at National Review last month. “The murderer wasn’t supposed to be here. I’m reminded of the pain that people feel when, for example, they find out (in different crimes) that the police didn’t follow up on a lead or a prisoner was wrongly released on parole. The feeling is palpable. This person wasn’t supposed to be on the streets.”
The Truth is as complex with this bogeyman as it is with the gun bogeyman.
A part of this complication is the fact stats aren’t as complete as they are with guns. Cato Institute noted this year illegal immigrant incarcerated stats weren’t well studied. Their assessment of the illegal immigrant incarceration rate included some assumptions regarding who was an illegal immigrant and who wasn’t (lack of a Social Security number, not covered by the VA, not a citizen, not in the military, or in a home which got food stamps). These issues shouldn’t immediately cause people to toss out the results of the study because they’re still remarkable.
The Cato study found the illegal immigrant incarceration rate is far less than Republicans would want people to believe (this covers federal, state, and local jurisdictions). It estimated there were almost 118K incarcerated illegal immigrants, while almost 2M American citizens were locked up in prison. The data also includes “illegal immigrants incarcerated for immigration offenses and in ICE detention facilities.” For those wondering how many illegal immigrants are in the U.S., it depends on the source. FAIR says 12.5M while Migrantion Policy Institute says 11M. The estimated data still blows away the notion of people from other countries causing rampant crime on American soil.
Legal immigrants locked up are even fewer than incarcerated illegal immigrants with almost 44K – which is also important because it shows the vast majority of crime in America is done by Americans.
Yet, the bogeyman exists because people fear what they don’t understand. The demographics of the country are changing, but it’s not necessarily because more illegal immigrants are slipping across the border. There are complicating factors including the fact birthrates are going down in certain demographics (and not just white demographics). It isn’t known why the changes are happening, but the facts show they are.
The Truth is complicated because the roots of the problem go beyond banning all firearms or immediately closing all borders and building a wall. There are factors to consider including the vast federal legal code, family issues, mental health, and whether the government actually needs to be involved in all the things. There are legitimate questions on whether the government should be involved in issues involving consenting adults or the substances people put in their bodies. Perhaps crime would actually go down if the government loosened its grip on trying to control almost all of our personal actions and forced certain issues from the dark corners of society into broad daylight.
I do not profess to have all the answers to life’s ills – nor would I ever attempt the claim. Yet it seems to me the solution isn’t putting another governmental barrier in place but trying to shatter the ones already in existence which do more harm than good.