What Do Guns Have to Do With Immigration? For Gun Owners of America, Everything

-- By Katie Lorenze

Gun Owners of America (GOA) has declared immigration reform a gun issue, warning that under the "scamnesty bill" currently in the U.S. Senate, "you can say buh bye to your guns and buh bye to the rest of your freedom."

The executive director of GOA, Larry Pratt, recently told conservative talk show host Steve Deace that immigration reform would "bring in a gazillion Democrat voters" who will be mostly illiterate and "dependents."

"They're going to be probably just sitting around drawing welfare and voting Democrat," Pratt said.

GOA Ties Guns to Immigration Reform

GOA, a small but influential pro-gun group based in Virginia, has been described as "eight lanes to the right" of the National Rifle Association, and Pratt, a former Republican legislator and former American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) board member, has been tied to white supremacists and the anti-immigrant "Minutemen" movement.

In a June 3rd letter to its followers, GOA warned that "you could lose all your guns before 2035 under the amnesty bill before the Senate," since granting millions of people their basic human and civil rights could mean that "for the rest of your life, the White House will be occupied by someone who is just as anti-gun and just as liberal as Barack Obama."

At a rally in May, Pratt said gun activists should oppose reform because, "If you bring in a whole bunch of Democrats into the country, most of them are going to vote to take away our guns. And in a few years, that's exactly what would happen."

This is a "desperate attempt to connect two issues that have nothing to do with one another," says Joe Shansky of Voces de La Frontera, a Milwaukee-based immigrant rights group that has been working hard for immigration reform.

GOA Leader Has Long Opposed Voting Rights as a "Gun Issue"

Pratt's stated reasons for opposing immigration reform fit into a theme: he has long opposed essentially any measure that would increase the voting power of minorities, arguing that increasing democratic participation would threaten his pro-gun agenda.

In 1979, for example, Pratt worked with ALEC to oppose a constitutional amendment guaranteeing full Congressional representation for Washington, D.C. residents, saying "The amendment would bring in two senators who would probably be minority and would definitely be liberal on gun control."

Pratt's latest claim about immigration reform and guns is the newest spin on the bill currently before the U.S. Senate. It comes on the heels of the resurgence of the Scaife-funded anti-immigration network that is working against the bill, with groups like the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), Numbers USA, ProEnglish and others running ads and developing "studies" purporting to show reform will harm the economy.

Pratt Has Longstanding Relationship With White Supremacists

But Pratt's opposition to immigrants is not limited to his fervent support for guns. In 1986, Pratt founded English First, which opposes bilingual education and other measures that it maintains are based in "political correctness," but which appears to be little more than an anti-immigrant front group. He also founded the U.S. Border Control, an immigration restriction group that ran a pledge campaign in 1999 urging members of Congress to oppose future immigration bills.

Both English First and U.S. Border Control filed an amicus brief (PDF) with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of Arizona's controversial immigration law, SB 1070, arguing among other things that the law could be justified on the grounds of "self defense": "While it is true that most of the Mexican nationals and citizens of several other countries who have illegally breached the nation's Arizona border do not wear military uniforms and carry the traditional weapons of war, it is clear that Arizona's borders have been breached by hundreds of thousands of invaders," they wrote.

Pratt himself has long been tied to the anti-immigrant "Minutemen" movement and white supremacists, and because of those ties was forced to step down from his role as co-chairman of Pat Buchanan's 1996 presidential campaign. He was a major figure in the right-wing militia movements in the 1990s, and in 1992, he addressed a three-day meeting of neo-Nazis and shared the stage with an Aryan Nations official and a former Ku Klux Klan leader.

Self Fulfilling Prophecy?

Pratt is not alone when it comes to rhetoric about immigrants-turned-Democratic-voters. Michelle Bachman, for example, recently said "we will never again have a Republican president, ever, if amnesty goes into effect."

As the nativist wing of the GOP continues pushing the party to the extreme on issues like guns and immigration, these concerns about naturalized immigrants gravitating towards Democrats could become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Brendan Fischer contributed to this article.


The author listed as "PRwatch Editors" is for reports attributable to CMD's editors or guest authors.