This contribution is part of our weekly This Week In Washington series

In a profound twist of irony, the Senate will be considering a new gun bill which seeks to regulate “undocumented guns” at the same time the Gang of 8 releases its amnesty plan for illegal aliens.  Conservatives must be prepared to fight for the rule of law for American gun owners instead of amnesty for illegals.

Guns – As early as this Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid plans to bring the most sweeping gun control bill to the Senate floor since the ‘90s.  The Senate Judiciary Committee has passed a slew of gun control measures in short order without bothering to submit a committee report.  Reid, with the help of Chuck Schumer and Pat Leahy, has combined many aspects of those bills into one single bill – S.649, which is given the Orwellian name “Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act of 2013.”  Reid will attempt to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed early this week.  Republicans must pledge to filibuster the motion to proceed, otherwise this runaway train will unlikely be stopped.

Conservative Concerns

  • National Gun Registry: At present, federal law only requires those who buy guns from a licensed dealer to submit to a background check under the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).  The NICS law was designed to protect against any attempt to record information and create a registry on guns and gun owners.  It merely requires sellers to check whether that individual is listed as someone ineligible to own a firearm.  Title 1 (Section 122) of the Reid bill extends the requirement for a background check to any private gun sale.  In doing so, the law directs Eric Holder to require a “record of transaction of any transfer that occurred between an unlicensed transferor and an unlicensed transferee.”  There is no protection in the bill against Justice Department officials using the information to create a database on gun owners.
  • Private Sales:  As noted, the centerpiece of the bill is a provision that would abrogate the right of an individual to sell or rent a firearm to a friend or family member without involving the federal government.   We all must understand that those who perpetrate the violent crimes on the streets of cities like Chicago will never submit to such a process.  This will only affect peaceful gun owners.  It will grant an already overzealous ATF the authority to track down gun owners they deem suspicious and entrap them in the legal tape of private gun transfers.  We should never have the federal government involved in private gun sales.
  • Gun Tax: Section 122 of the bill authorizes the Attorney General (the same man who was involved in the worst gun smuggling scandal ever) to levy a tax on those private sales in order to pay for the expanded background checks.  Incidentally, the fact that this bill levies a new tax on gun purchases should disqualify the entire legislation under the “blue slip” rule.  Pursuant to the Origination Clause of the Constitution, any revenue-raising provision that originates in the Senate instead of the House is invalid.
  • Criminalizing Gun Owners:  Section 123 of the bill requires all gun owners to report lost firearms to the Attorney General within 24 hours.  Failure to report a loss or theft would be deemed a felony punishable with up to 5 years in prison.
  •  Helping Criminals Pass Background Checks:  While this bill does nothing to prevent violent crimes, it might actually make it easier for criminals to find which states have the most deficient background checks.  David Addington of the Heritage Foundation notes that Section 112 (b) of the bill requires the Attorney General to publish a website ranking the states in order of how much data they have submitted to the background check system.  For all the talk about loose gun laws helping criminals, this law will provide them with a handy list of states with bad background check systems.
  • Veterans Gun Ban:  There’s a provision in the bill which could punish anyone who sells a gun to a veteran without realizing he has PTSD.

Punchline 

This is a horrendous piece of legislation.  Republicans must pledge to block it from the floor and use every dilatory tactic to ensure that the train never gets rolling.  Senators Cruz, Rubio, Rand Paul, Lee, Inhofe, Crapo, Moran, Burr, Johnson of Wisconsin, Enzi, Risch , Crapo, Coats, and Roberts have already pledged to filibuster the motion to proceed.  We need 29 more commitments, including a willingness on the part of the Mitch McConnell to lead from the front on this issue.

There is a concern that Republicans will let the debate begin on condition that they receive a vote on some choice amendments.  All this will do is provide cover to many vulnerable Democrats in pro-gun states, by affording them opportunities to vote the right way on some amendments while supporting the underling bill.   It will also buy the left more time to peel off Republicans for a potential compromise.  Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) has already expressed support for increased background checks, and Democrats are working hard to win his support.  Concurrently, Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) is working with Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) on some sort of a compromise that would exempt immediate family members from the background check requirement while leaving it in place for other private sales.  It is possible that Reid will delay the vote on the bill until Toomey or another Republican cuts a deal with Manchin.

Please call your Republican members of the Senate and request them to vote no on the motion to proceed to S. 649.

Immigration – The Gang of 8 senators working on an amnesty bill – Chuck Schumer, Dick Durbin, Robert Menendez, Michael Bennett,  Jeff Flake, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Marco Rubio – are expected to unveil their formal proposal late this week or next week.  Their proposal has been written behind closed doors with no effort on the part of the Republican members to brief their colleagues on their ideas.  To that end, the Republican members of the Judiciary Committee have asked the members of the Gang to brief them on the details of the bill no later than Tuesday.  Some members, like Lindsey Graham and John McCain, have been recalcitrant and less than forthcoming in working with fellow Republicans on the issue.

Despite the suspense and anticipation of the plan, there won’t be much new ground covered.  The plan will immediately grant legal status to almost every illegal alien in the country.  All the enforcement measures will be redundant manifestations of current law with no clear triggers, preconditions, or metrics to verify the implementation of any enforcement proposals.  Hence, we will repeat the mistakes of 1986 by granting amnesty now and enforcement never.  Additionally, their plan will call for the importation of up to 200,000 more low-skilled workers every year and increase visas in all categories.  At present, we grant over 1 million immigrants permanent legal resident status every year, the highest level ever.  This bill would double that rate of immigration.

Moreover, the final plan would invariably lead to a ballooning of the welfare state, as millions of more low-income immigrants would be set on a path to receiving welfare benefits and refundable tax credits.  Both the House and Senate versions of the Gang plan call for expedited citizenship for children of illegals and for Agriculture workers.  This will immediately enable all those families to become eligible for welfare programs.  The Budget Committee Republican staff estimates that costs could be upwards of $40 billion in 2022 alone, just for Medicaid and Obamacare.

Conservatives must begin pressuring their senators and congressmen not to sign onto any amnesty or even discuss legalization until all of the enforcement mechanisms are implemented and working.

Obama’s FY 2014 Budget – It’s better late than never.  After missing the budget deadline by two months, the latest in modern history, Obama finally plans to unveil his FY 2014 budget proposal this week.  It will mirror the Senate Democrat budget in that it calls for tax increases and more stimulus spending, and it will never balance.  He also plans to cap IRAs at $3 million.  The only surprise is that he will agree to some cuts to Medicare providers and subject the growth of Social Security benefits to the chained CPI, a more modest way of measuring the increase in cost of living.  In addition, Obama would also calculate the tax brackets using the chained CPI, which would result in more bracket creep and higher taxes for many middle class families.

Conservatives must make sure that Republicans don’t fall into a trap of agreeing to tax increases in return for these “reforms.”  Lindsey Graham has already expressed encouragement over the proposal.  The aforementioned proposals are mere austerity cuts to the current system, which [in the case of Medicare] is anti-free-market, and [in the case of Social Security] fails to grant retirees with choices and private property rights.  To the extent Republicans should ever agree to raising taxes as part of a grand bargain, it must only come after real conservative entitlement reform – something Democrats will never agree to implement.

 

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