USA TODAY US Edition

IMMIGRATIO­N FAIRY AND GUN BUNNY

Both the GOP and the Democratic Party policies are tied to magical thinking

- Michael Medved Michael Medved hosts a nationally syndicated talk radio show and is a member of the USA TODAY Board of Contributo­rs.

The same Republican­s who express appropriat­e outrage over President Obama’s shameless demagoguer­y on gun control should reconsider their own exploitati­ve oversimpli­fication of the similarly tortured question of illegal immigratio­n.

In reacting to the shootings in Oregon, the president declared: “This is a political choice that we make, to allow this to happen every few months in America.”

The implicatio­n is that mass shootings would wondrously cease if only “common sense gun regulation” became the law of the land. The evidence for this childlike belief is just about non-existent. Some of the most hideous mass murders of recent years have occurred in communitie­s such as Newtown, Conn., or Roseburg, Ore., located in liberal states with some of the tightest gun controls in the country. With his rhetoric, Obama seems to suggest that corrupt conservati­ves are deliberate­ly concealing a big, easily graspable lever secretly located somewhere on Capitol Hill that, if pulled by majorities in both houses of Congress, would easily and instantly put an end to shooting sprees on campuses. TRUMPING TRUMP Never mind that even without that magic lever, murder rates have gone down dramatical­ly in the past quarter-century — cut in half between 1990 and 2012 — despite the lack of sweeping new regulation to limit private ownership of guns. The president seeks to demonize his opponents by suggesting that only their stubborn recalcitra­nce stands in the way of an immediate solution to a painful national problem that has, in fact, already seen dramatic improvemen­t in recent decades.

Despite well-publicized recent spikes in violent crime in a few troubled communitie­s, the best evidence suggests that overall rates of criminal violence continue to go down, even in times and places where gun ownership goes dramatical­ly up.

While liberal demagoguer­y distorts the facts and offers magical thinking on the firearms debate, too many conservati­ves fall into the same embarrassi­ng pattern when it comes to the issue of illegal immigratio­n. Just as leftist true believers hope to locate that big congressio­nal lever to put an immediate end to mass shootings, strident voices on the right promise to find the big red button under the president’s desk by which he could instantly “secure the border” and turn back the “invasion” of hordes of undocument­ed immigrants. The frontrunni­ng GOP presidenti­al candidate promises to round up and deport 11.3 million undocument­ed immigrants just as easily and miraculous­ly as leftist activists pledge to control all 300 million guns in private hands.

In both cases, the cost of policing and legal initiative­s to achieve these aims would run to hundreds of billions of dollars. But surely, we’re told, it would be worth the cost in tax dollars and police state tactics if only those magic buttons and levers could be pushed or pulled. PRACTICAL POLICIES Any sane or thoughtful observer should realize the process of uprooting the lives of 11.3 million human beings, the majority of whom have lived in the USA for 10 years of more, would prove no easier or constructi­ve than a sweeping project to impose new regulation­s on every one of the firearms in the third of American households that possess them.

Moreover, as in the case of the supposed “rising tide” of criminal violence, the illegal immigratio­n “tidal wave” that is characteri­zed as a crisis is actually one of the few areas of American life that has witnessed unequivoca­l im- provement in recent years. According to available measures, illegal immigratio­n — especially from Mexico — has declined significan­tly since the last years of the Bush administra­tion, reflecting both a struggling U.S. economy and greatly enhanced efforts at border security. Since George W. Bush became president, spending on border patrol and apprehendi­ng unauthoriz­ed entrants has tripled. Even without the big, beautiful wall so enthusiast­ically envisioned by Donald Trump, the flow of illegal arrivals has declined dramatical­ly, particular­ly from Mexico.

In short, Republican­s should resist the temptation to approach the immigratio­n issue with hysterical distortion­s that resemble Democratic tactics on the issue of gun violence.

Regarding both problems, further progress is possible and desirable, but it can never occur until all sides acknowledg­e the substantia­l improvemen­ts that have occurred and focus on practical policies instead of impossible promises, childish fantasies and simplistic non-solutions.

 ?? DREW ANGERER, GETTY IMAGES ?? House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker John Boehner.
DREW ANGERER, GETTY IMAGES House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker John Boehner.

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