Reader asked how come we're tough on guns, easy on voting. Here's why.
After we published the March 13 editorial, “Expand background checks, save more lives,” I received an email from an Uncasville resident questioning why, editorially, we are so willing to support barriers that can make it difficult to obtain guns, but so defensive of efforts to assure those casting votes are doing so legally.
Here is the letter, which is a good one, and the following is my response.
After reading today's editorial on background checks I have found it difficult to reconcile a dichotomy that exists in the Day's position as it relates to the right to bear arms and the right to vote. Perhaps you can address it?
I am often amazed by the dichotomy of thought in regard to supporting or not supporting certain legislation by the Day Editorial Staff. Such is the case currently with voting laws and the proposed changes to the federal gun laws.
In the case of voting laws, it is considered voter suppression and an infringement of the right to vote if the government were to require a photo ID or proof of citizenship in order to vote. The argument (and a sound one) is that some folks simply cannot afford a photo ID, don’t drive or own a car so they have no driver’s license and even having to transport themselves to obtain that photo ID would in some cases severely inconvenience some people.
However in the case of exercising a person’s 2nd Amendment right it seems perfectly OK to require a local application with a fee of $70, in person finger printing and in some cases interview and then a firearms safety course at an average cost of $100, which also requires travel to the course site, for some over an hour each way (and 8 hours of classroom and live fire instruction) and this allows the issuance of a local permit good for only 60 days and is required to apply for the state permit which costs an additional $70 and ultimately a trip to one of the Connecticut State Police interview sites for the issuance of a 5-year permit (a similar process exists for a long-gun or ammo purchasing permit.)
So why don’t the exact same arguments hold true? If the requirement to pay over $250 and travel to and from an 8-hour safety course and interviews at both the state and local level is not an infringement or suppression of the right to bear arms, how is a photo ID to vote one?
On an additional note, don’t these firearm’s requirements most negatively affect the poor and those living in less represented areas thus providing only the well to do the opportunity to own firearms?
Thanks for your letter, Rich.
One difference is that many voting laws, such as more stringent identification requirements, are offered as solutions to a problem that largely does not exist. Study after study has concluded that voter fraud is exceedingly rare and that voter impersonation is virtually nonexistent.
President Donald Trump, after his 2016 election, appointed a commission — populated by those who had claimed voter fraud was a big problem — to root it out. Instead, it ended up disbanding without ever issuing a report because it could find no extensive voter fraud.
These identification requirements are often tailored to get a desired result — making it harder for folks likely to support Democrats from voting. Texas permits voters to use a handgun license to vote, for example, but not a student ID from a state university! More than 80% of handgun licenses issued to Texans go to white Texans, while more than half of the students in the University of Texas system are racial or ethnic minorities.
A coincidence? I think not.
In 2017, Georgia enacted an “exact match” law mandating that voters’ names on registration records must perfectly match their names on approved forms of identification — don’t forget that middle initial or register as Rob instead of Robert! In the leadup to the 2018 election, approximately 80% of Georgia voters whose registrations were blocked by this law were people of color. Was the exactness provision enforced equally? Unlikely.
A lawsuit forced the state to largely end the policy in 2019, but now the Republican-controlled legislature is up to other tricks to suppress Black and brown voters.
While there is no evidence to support the claim that voting fraud is a major problem, there is overwhelming evidence supporting gun violence as an American crisis. Gun violence is among the leading causes of premature death in the United States. Guns kill more than 38,000 people and cause nearly 85,000 injuries each year, according to the American Public Health Association.
Gun homicide rates are 25 times higher in the U.S. than in other wealthy, developed countries. As for mass shootings, this nation is in a league of its own.
I hope that explains our editorial “dichotomy” between opposing barriers to voting, such as questionable identification laws, while supporting stringent background checks and permitting procedures to try to keep guns out of the hands of people more likely to misuse them.
As for the cost of meeting these firearm requirements making it more difficult for low-income individuals to obtain guns, that is probably true. However, my guess is that people living in low-income neighborhoods have many higher priorities — such as improving failing schools, access to quality affordable housing, improving health outcomes and lowering crime rates — than getting access to firearms.
Paul Choiniere is the editorial page editor.
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