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Keeping Immigrants Out Isn’t the Key to Our Safety—Gun Control Is
Melanie Mata

Since taking office, President Trump has tried twice to close America’s doors to refugees and ban immigrants from seven (later revised to six) Muslim-majority countries. His rationale for this “travel ban,” which critics call an unconstitutional ban on Muslims, is that it will protect Americans from “terrorists.” He also proposes to build a wall on the United States-Mexico border to keep undocumented immigrants from entering the United States, and has called for more deportations of immigrants who are already here. Trump told Fox News that criminal illegal immigrants are “getting the hell out” of the U.S. or being thrown behind bars.

But if Trump actually cared about keeping Americans safe, he would focus on gun control, not on punishing immigrants. Zero refugees from countries included in Trump’s travel ban have killed anyone on American soil. But gun violence is a huge problem.

In an article by CNN in which they used figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from 2001 to 2013, 406,496 people died by firearms here in the U.S. This data covered all types of death, including homicide, accident and suicide. In comparison, according to the U.S. State Department, the number of Americans killed in terrorism incidents inside the U.S. between 2001 and 2013, was 3,030—and 2,977 of those were killed in 9/11.

Some people believe that undocumented immigrants commit more crimes than U.S. citizens. But according to the Justice Department only 5% of inmates in state and federal prisons are non-citizens. Also, the Migration Policy Institute estimates that only 3% of the undocumented immigrants who were convicted of crimes committed felonies. (A felony is a serious crime, often violent, like rape or murder.) Most of the time when undocumented immigrants are arrested it is for low-level crimes related to their legal status, like driving without a license or using a fake Social Security number in order to work.

What these facts prove is that Trump made false statements like the one he made during his announcement to run for the Republican nomination for president: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best…They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” The reality is that most people migrate to the United States for better opportunities, not to spread terror. This comment only perpetuates untrue negative stereotypes about Latinos.

Reasonable Restrictions

image by YC-Art Dept

Although the right to keep and bear arms is protected by the Second Amendment in the United States Constitution, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have reasonable restrictions.

First we should implement the same basic gun control measures on a federal level—like obtaining permits or licenses after passing background checks, adult age requirements, safety training, and banning assault weapons, which kill many people in seconds. (Right now, every state has its own laws regarding gun control).

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has also proposed a particularly dangerous law called “concealed carry reciprocity” that would allow people to conceal their gun and carry it loaded across state lines. That means that even if you live in a state with strict gun laws, violent people can still bring their guns into your state and use them.

In fact the NRA exerts powerful influence on the president and Congress because it spends a ton of money supporting Republican politicians and tells its members to vote against any lawmaker who tries to pass gun control. This is another reason why we don’t have reasonable gun control in this country and why Trump stirs up fears about immigrants instead of addressing gun violence.

Background checks should include a psychological history to make sure the buyer isn’t harmful to themselves or others. The January 2017 mass shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport underscores this. Five people were killed, six others were injured. The FBI in the shooter’s home state of Alaska knew he suffered from mental health issues, and yet he was still allowed to buy guns.

Instead of focusing on the real safety issue, gun violence, Trump has implemented a ban on a false security threat—immigrants and refugees. If he is truly concerned about our security he should support policies that protect us by making sure dangerous people don’t get guns in their hands. Guns are the real threat. By trying to keep immigrants out of our country, Trump is aiming at the wrong target.

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