While speaking at the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, former President Bill Clinton made the absurd claim that it is “harder to vote than to buy an assault weapon.”
I appreciate the fact that the primary point of his comment was to criticize states which have passed voter ID laws but nonetheless, it is high time that we stop letting politicians get away with such patently absurd comments about gun rights. Otherwise, there will be those who actually believe them to be true.
So … let’s set the record straight. Is it easier to buy an assault weapon than it is to vote?
Well … since gun laws vary from state to state, we need to select a state that the anti’s seem to think has very lax gun laws.
I know … let’s use Virginia. In addition to being one of the favorite targets of anti-gun advocates for its supposedly lax gun laws, Virginia also has a recently-passed voter ID law. It will be the perfect test-bed for our comparison.
Buying a so-called ‘assault weapon’
Let’s start by looking at what a prospective buyer of a so-called ‘assault weapon’ must do to complete the purchase.
- They must produce both a primary and a secondary form of ID.
- The primary form of ID must be a photo ID issued by a governmental agency or by the United States Department of Defense
- The secondary form of ID must show an address identical to that shown on the photo ID and must be one of the following:
- Evidence of currently paid personal property tax or real estate tax, or
- A current lease, or
- Utility or telephone bill, or
- Voter registration card, or
- Bank check, or
- Passport, or
- Automobile registration, or
- Hunting or fishing license
- They must then complete a Virginia Firearms Transaction Record (Form SP-65)
- They follow this up by completing an ATF form 4473
- The information from these forms is then transmitted to the Virginia State Police where the purchaser’s background is checked. If the background check reveals any of the following then the purchaser cannot buy the firearm:
- Conviction of a crime punishable by more than 1 year in prison
- Being a fugitive from justice
- Being an unlawful user of, or addicted to, a controlled substance (This includes users of medical marijuana)
- Being adjudicated as a mental defective
- Being committed to a mental institution
- Being in the US illegally
- Having received a dishonorable discharge from the military
- Having surrendered their US citizenship
- Having been convicted of a misdemeanor offense of domestic violence
- Having been acquitted of a crime by reason of insanity
- Having been adjudicated legally incompetent or mentally incapacitated
- Having been involuntarily admitted to a mental health facility or ordered to mandatory outpatient treatment
I should also note that any incorrect answer on the Virginia Sp-65 form or the ATF 4473 form subjects the prospective buyer to criminal liability.
As for how long this all takes, the background check is supposed to be ‘instant’, and often is, but may also be delayed for minutes, hours, or even days depending upon a variety of factors.
In the best case scenario, a purchaser of a so-called ‘assault weapon’ will need to allow at least 30 minutes to complete the process.
If the same person were to show up at the polls under Virginia’s voter ID law, they would be required to do a single thing:
- Provide an acceptable form of ID. This would include:
- Virginia voter registration card
- Valid Virginia driver’s license
- Military ID
- Any Federal, Virginia state or local government-issued ID
- Employer issued photo ID card
- Concealed handgun permit
- Valid student ID issued by any institution of higher education located in the Commonwealth of Virginia
- Current utility bill, bank statement, government check or paycheck indicating the name and address of the voter
- Social Security card
Even then, lack of proper ID would not preclude a person from casting a vote. Any voter who does not bring an acceptable ID to the polls will be offered a provisional ballot.
And despite the fact that felons lose their right to vote as well as to own firearms, there is no requirement that the prospective voter undergo any kind of background check.
Assuming no line, a voter can be in and out of the polls in 5 minutes.
So what’s the real comparison between voting and gun rights?
The truth of the matter is that the right to keep and bear arms is not only enshrined in the Constitution but is the second article in the Bill of Rights whereas voting was not mentioned at all in the original Constitution.
So long as citizens must produce ID to exercise the fundamental right to keep and bear arms because of a supposed state’s interest in public safety, then there is no valid legal argument against requiring ID to vote to further a supposed state’s interest in only extending the franchise to those actually qualified to vote.
A warning to the ACLU and other civil liberties groups which inexplicably oppose gun rights … you should be very careful what you ask for. When you put forward an argument for the infringement of a basic right and that argument is accepted, do not be surprised when the same argument is used to infringe another right.