Did Rubio embrace this idea? Of course not. He signed a letter pledging to block the Senate from even voting on “any legislation that will serve as a vehicle for any additional gun restrictions.” Two weeks ago, he promised to “filibuster any gun control proposals that seek to restrict the rights of Americans who have never violated the law.” “Efforts to legislate limitations on gun ownership will only work on those of us who are already predisposed to obey the law,” said Rubio. Gun owners “do not deserve to be harassed or further regulated.”
You don’t need to be a native English speaker to recognize the hypocrisy. In the age-old dilemma between liberty and law enforcement, Rubio switches sides depending on the issue. He believes passionately that laws designed to catch lawbreakers don’t work, that inconveniences to law-abiding citizens are intolerable, and that government databases are unacceptably dangerous — but only if you’re buying a gun.
As long as guns and immigration were debated separately, Republicans were able to conceal this dance, borrowing libertarian arguments against gun control while ignoring them in the context of immigration. But now the two issues have converged on the Senate calendar. Last weekend, when Rubio went on five Sunday shows to discuss immigration, he was forced to talk about guns as well. It wasn’t pretty. On ABC’s “This Week,” he was asked why anyone buying a firearm online or at a gun show shouldn’t have to go through a criminal background check. He replied:
“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. . . . All 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.”
You could say the same about E-Verify. It blocks the transaction in question — hiring — but isn’t designed to launch prosecutions. It targets people who have broken the law and are accustomed to navigating black markets. It yields a high rate of false positives, burdening the law-abiding majority. Yet when Rubio was asked in the same interview about immigration, he brushed aside such skepticism. “We are going to get the toughest enforcement measures in the history of this country,” he assured viewers. “We are going to have E-Verify, universally, which means that you will not be able to find a job in the United States if you’re not legally here.”
I don’t mean to pick on Rubio. His selective, alternating appeals to liberty, cynicism and public order hardly distinguish him. The current Senate bill to deploy E-Verify against illegal immigrants has 11 sponsors and co-sponsors. All but two of these senators voted last week to block debate on background checks for gun purchases. And these nine are just the tip of the iceberg. So let’s drop the pretense. Most politicians standing in the way of background checks for firearms don’t really believe in freedom or limited government. They simply care more about controlling immigration than they do about controlling guns.