What do firearm background checks and illegal immigration have in common? Nothing, really, except for Donald Trump’s instinct to cut deals. Under pressure to respond to multiple mass shootings over the weekend, the president went to Twitter to offer a bargain that would garner enough support across the aisle.
Er … too soon?
….this legislation with desperately needed immigration reform. We must have something good, if not GREAT, come out of these two tragic events!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 5, 2019
The two issues may have nothing in common in a policy sense, but unfortunately, one of the shooters already tied them together politically. Police suspect that the El Paso shooter wrote and published an anti-immigrant manifesto on 8chan, which has since lost one of its cybersecurity vendors. It makes the “die in vain” reference look very different than what Trump intended:
Investigators are examining a screed believed to have been posted online by the suspect in Saturday’s fatal shooting at a Texas shopping mall an hour before the attack, senior law enforcement officials say.
Investigators are “reasonably confident” that the suspect, identified by police as Patrick Wood Crusius, 21, of Texas, posted the diatribe on the extremist online forum 8chan before the shooting. …
The screed posted to the anonymous extremist message board railed against immigrants in Texas and pushed talking points about preserving European identity in America. The attack left at least 20 dead and 26 injured.
The document criticized both Democrats and Republicans and expressed anti-government and anti-corporate views. The author claimed to have developed those beliefs before Trump’s presidency.
Tying the two together will look — at least to the violent nuts who might be contemplating copycat crimes — as if the shooter succeeded in his plan. This will make immigration reform somewhat toxic in the short term as news organizations play up allegations that Trump’s “anti-immigrant rhetoric” contributed to an environment of rage that prompted the massacre. Declaring that immigration reform will somehow redeem murders committed ostensibly over border-security issues is at best a losing strategy, not to mention a really strange way to frame both issues.
Even apart from the jaw-dropping optics of this proposal, it wouldn’t work anyway. The problem with legislative action on immigration reform is that there are already more than enough moving parts to it. It’s incredibly complicated as it is, with issues of border security, visa-system overhaul, asylum policies, detention and processing systems, and so on. All of those have more than enough equities for horse-trading without adding in a constitutional fight over gun-control laws. Attempting to tie the two together would make both bog down even further, not clear the decks for a grand rapprochement.
Besides, strong background checks is only one piece among many others that Democrats are demanding. If all they wanted was stronger background checks, Republicans would likely pass such a bill, and the NRA might even endorse it. Democrats want a lot more than that — “assault weapons” bans that didn’t work the first time, gun licenses, denial lists, ammunition limitations, right down to firearm confiscations. It would be as useful for Democrats to propose improved background checks at the border as their one and only immigration-reform policy concession.
Trump plans to speak at the White House about the shootings around the time this post goes live. Let’s hope this linkage disappears by then.