Fourteen years ago, a “be responsible” ad campaign that echoes the current fight about universal background checks hit American media. “We think it’s reasonable to provide mandatory instant criminal background checks for every sale at every gun show. No loopholes anywhere for anyone.” It was the National Rifle Association (NRA) that sponsored that 1999 media […]
Fourteen years ago, a “be responsible” ad campaign that echoes the current fight about universal background checks hit American media. “We think it’s reasonable to provide mandatory instant criminal background checks for every sale at every gun show. No loopholes anywhere for anyone.”
It was the National Rifle Association (NRA) that sponsored that 1999 media blitz.
Jump forward to the present, and a lot has changed. The NRA — now more powerful — vehemently opposes universal background checks. Republican senators, in fear of being “primaried” by a NRA-backed challenger, are using the filibuster to keep the argument from reaching the Senate floor. For the majority of the Republican Party, the issue of gun control has became a non-negotiable point.
Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), James Risch (R-Idaho), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Dan Coats (R-Ind.) and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) have signed an April 8 letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) promising that they “will oppose the motion to proceed to any legislation that will serve as a vehicle for any additional gun restrictions.”
Rubio, in an April 4 column on Townhall.com, said, “What advocates of indiscriminate gun bans fail to realize is that their efforts to legislate limitations on gun ownership will only work on those of us who are already predisposed to obey the law. Since a disregard for law is the very definition of criminality, criminals will not be deterred by Congress’ efforts to restrict their access to firearms.”
This aggressive stance against firearm background checks would suggest that Republicans reject all background checks. Privacy rights advocates are up in arms about a provision of the proposed Schumer-Toomey-Manchin gun control legislation that allows firearms dealers to run background checks on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) on employment applicants without first alerting the applicant.
As stated by the Heritage Foundation, “The gun control legislation proposed by Senators Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) lets firearms dealers secretly run government background checks on job applicants — a gross violation of privacy. Private-sector employers should not be able to use non-public government databases like the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to check up on job applicants, unless the job applicants first consent to the intrusion into their privacy. And the job applicants have every reason to consent — they want the job.”
However, the logic behind the Republicans’ opposition of all background checks fail with their support of E-Verify, a Department of Homeland Security program that verifies I-9 information against a national database to verify an applicant’s eligibility to work in the United States. As of October 2007, all federal government agencies were mandated to use it, with all federal contractors mandated to use it by 2009. For private employers, E-Verify use is currently voluntary.
However, the proposed Accountability Through Electronic Verification Act, introduced by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) will make the E-Verify program permanent and mandatory for all new hires within one year of being hired. Employers would need to “check the status of existing employees” within three years and “terminate the employment of those found unauthorized to work.”
Libertarians hate this. They have called this a “national identification and surveillance system” that would help the government “compile and monitor the personal information of every person seeking employment.” Democrats are not fans, either. They see this as a way to pass the responsibility of stopping illegal residence employment from the government to employers.
On top of this, the system is flawed, argue opponents of E-Verify. According to the program’s own documentation, the 98 percent accuracy rate that the program boasts suggest that there would be millions of individuals that would have to go through additional paperwork, time and fees to clear their names after a false positive.
Despite this, Republicans are split in its support of E-Verify. “We can’t be the only nation in the world that does not enforce its immigration laws,” Rubio argued, despite the fact that many of his fellow House Republicans fear that the E-Verify requirement will hinder farm employment or impose on states’ rights.
“E-Verify has already proven effective in combating the hiring of illegal aliens. It’s a simple tool for employers who want to comply with the law in a digital age when sophisticated, fraudulent documents are just the stroke of a computer key away,” Grassley said. “This legislation allows us to hold employers accountable while giving them the tools needed to abide by the law in their hiring practices.”
A hypocritical approach
When asked by ABC’s “This Week” about why anyone who buys a firearm online or at a gun show shouldn’t have to go through a background check, Rubio said, “Do you want the background check? Because the background check system right now does not work, because it’s not being enforced. Number two is, criminals don’t care about the laws that we pass with regards to guns. They never follow the law … [A]ll these laws that people are discussing will not effectively deal with that problem but will infringe on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.”
In the United States, agriculture is dependent on illegal labor. Farming is back-breaking, tedious, skilled labor that requires strong hand-eye coordination, speed and precision. Few Americans are drawn to this line of work. “Few citizens express interest, in large part because this is hard, tough work,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in 2011. “Our broken immigration system offers little hope for producers to do the right thing.”
“If we were to use E-Verify now, we’d shut down, either that or farmers would go to prison,” said Manuel Cunha, a Fresno-based citrus farmer and president of Nisei Farmers League. “We’ve admitted many workers are not legal and if you have to get rid of everybody, where do I go to get my labor? Nowhere. We have to have a workforce that we can put in the system.”
Many has asked why would Rubio and other Republicans would support E-Verify when their argument against universal firearms background checks apply to the E-Verify argument. As argued by John C. Donohue, the C. Wendell and Edith M. Carlsmith Professor of Law at Stanford Law School, to CNN, “the only argument for opposing gun background checks is that you believe the U.S. is already so gun-saturated and current gun owners are so reckless about allowing access to their guns by prohibited parties, that even if they can’t buy them, the criminals and insane will get their hands on guns in any event.”