Second Amendment Group Rallies Members Against McCarthy’s First Gun Bill Aimed at Illegal Immigrants
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has a gun bill planned for a vote soon that is aimed at rounding up illegal immigrants through the federal gun background check system. The bill would utilize the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System to attempt to find people who are in the United States illegally.
However, the Second Amendment advocacy group Gun Owners of America (GOA) alerted its members about legislation, warning that it would empower the FBI to target and conduct warrantless surveillance of law-abiding gun owners.
“I could think of a thousand ways to target illegal aliens without harassing law-abiding gun owners named Rodriguez,” GOA’s attorney Rob Olson told The Epoch Times in an interview.
House GOP Priority
House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) put the bill “Illegal Alien NICS Alert Act” on the public list outlining the legislation to be brought to the floor for a vote in the first two weeks in session. The bill was first introduced by Rep. Gregory Steube (R-Fla.) in January 2021. It has not yet been filed in the new Congress.
The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) is the federal electronic background check system run by the FBI to check if a person is legally prohibited from owning a gun. There are nine categories of people who are not allowed to buy or possess guns, including illegal or unlawful aliens.
This Republican priority bill would amend the Brady Bill of 1993 to direct the Department of Justice to transmit a person’s information to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and state and local law enforcement every time NICS flags a firearm transferee as possibly in the United States illegally.
GOA sent out an alert to its members to have them email their representatives that the legislation is not “progun.”
“As your constituent, I was appalled to hear that the very first gun bill the new House majority plans to vote on—the Illegal Alien NICS Alert Act—is NOT a pro-gun bill,” the email template says. “NICS’ outrageous false positive background check denial rate will result in U.S. residents wrongly being reported to ICE and could have a chilling effect on the skyrocketing increase in minority gun ownership.”
According to a 2019 FBI report, there were 1.7 million NICS denials over the previous two decades, but only 28,816 of those were for being illegal or unlawful aliens. Meanwhile, 2.4 million people were arrested for illegally crossing the border just in the 2022 fiscal year, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
“This is a ridiculous solution to illegal immigration that will do nothing to solve the underlying problem caused by this nation’s porous borders,” said Olson. “Yet this bill is all but guaranteed to infringe the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans.”
Broken Background Check System
A large percentage of NICS denials—people who don’t pass the background check—are wrong. John Lott, president of the Crime Prevention Research Center, has extensively researched this issue.
“The problem with the NICS system is the overwhelmingly high error rate. The error rate is something around 99 percent,” Lott told The Epoch Times. “It is one thing to stop a felon from buying a gun, but it is another thing to stop someone who simply has a roughly phonetically similar name and similar birthday to a felon’s. The errors discriminate against black and Hispanic males.”
Attorney Gilbert Ambler, who also represents the GOA, said the bill would likely lawfully amend the current Brady Bill as it relates to individuals who are prohibited from possessing a firearm.
“The concern here, for me, is that with all of the other failures of the NICS system, rather than fix the system itself, the bill would encourage additional law enforcement action based on what we know is often erroneous data,” Ambler told The Epoch Times.
Targeting the Border Crisis
“My bill is commonsense,” Steube posted on Twitter Jan 8. “If an illegal alien attempts to purchase a firearm, ICE should be notified so they can take action.” The Florida Republican linked to a statement on the website of the advocacy group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which supports this bill.
“By requiring information sharing between relevant agencies, the bill would help ensure that unlawful purchases are prevented and also aid in removing those illegal aliens from the country and preventing further offenses,” wrote Joe Chatham, FAIR’s senior government relations manager. “With border crossings already at a 22-year high and showing no signs of slowing down, now is not the time to get soft on crime.”
However, FAIR is not going to go to the mat for this bill. A senior official at FAIR told The Epoch Times that his organization believes the GOA’s concerns over this bill are overblown, but there are stronger pieces of legislation targeting illegal immigrants that the GOP could consider in its place. The official pointed to several bills that are just as narrow in scope, including legislation that prohibits illegal aliens from voting in Washington, D.C., elections.
Olson pointed out that even if one assumes the new proposed background check system worked perfectly, it is a drop in the bucket to the border crisis. “Even if ICE arrested and deported every single person of the 1,400 yearly NICS denials for actual illegal aliens, that would only solve 1/2000th of the illegal immigration problem,” the attorney said. “That’s hardly worth sacrificing Americans’ Second Amendment rights.
Spokespeople for McCarthy, Scalise, and Steube did not respond to requests for comment.