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BROWN: Liberals only protect the constitutional rights they agree with

Voting rights for all, guns for the privileged few

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Leading up to the 2012 U.S. presidential election there was a great deal of controversy surrounding proposed voter identification laws in various states -- notably in Texas and South Carolina. Currently 20 states, the District of Columbia and all U.S. non-state territories do not require voters to produce identification of any kind at the polls. Opponents of voter ID laws claim they would deprive minorities of their voting rights. Yet those same opponents have begun to clamor for more stringent gun laws, which would deprive those same minorities of their right to bear arms.

Proponents of stricter voter identification laws were concerned with voter fraud. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a strong supporter of stricter such laws, said in a 2012 interview with the Houston Chronicle, “I know for a fact that voter fraud is real, that it must be stopped, and that voter ID is one way to prevent cheating at the ballot box and ensure integrity in the electoral system.”

He also said, “There’s far more evidence of voter fraud than there is of voter suppression.”

U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. disagreed. At a 2012 speech to the NAACP, Mr. Holder called these laws “poll taxes” and said, “Only 8 percent of voting, white citizens, while 25% of African American voting age citizens lack a government issued photo ID… We will not allow political pretext to disenfranchise American Citizens of their most precious right.” 

According to a study conducted by the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, around 11 percent of voting-age citizens do not have access to sufficient identification. The study claimed, “The result is plain: Voter ID laws will make it harder for hundreds of thousands of poor Americans to vote. They place a serious burden on a core constitutional right that should be universally available to every American citizen.”

The study also claimed, “People of color are more likely to be disenfranchised by these laws since they are less likely to have a photo ID than the general population.”

It would appear that Mr. Holder is committed to protecting the constitutional rights of all Americans. 

Yet on multiple occasions Mr. Holder has urged Congress to pass legislation that would require universal background checks on all gun purchases, eliminating the so-called “gun show loophole.” Although all federally licensed firearm dealers are currently required to conduct background checks for firearms sales, private sales or trades between individuals do not require background checks in many states. 

Part of the process of conducting background checks requires gun buyers to produce ID. Individual state laws vary, but in Virginia buyers must produce two forms of ID, including one from his or her state of residence. If purchasing an “assault weapon,” the buyer must additionally produce proof of citizenship or legal residency such as a passport, birth certificate or certificate of nationalization.

If 11 percent of Americans and 25 percent of African-Americans lack the appropriate identification to vote, which usually consists of one ID and sometimes does not even require a photo, then how many more would be excluded from purchasing firearms by a two ID requirement?

Though Mr. Holder voiced his commitment to core constitutional rights that should be universally available to every American citizen, perhaps he just meant the rights he agrees with.

The right to keep and bear arms is legally guaranteed for all Americans by the Second Amendment to the Constitution, which states: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.” 

Combine those ID requirements with the added 10 percent to 11 percent Firearms and Ammunition Excise Tax on already expensive firearms and ammunition purchases, and it becomes clear that the percent of Americans disenfranchised in this matter is likely much higher than 11 percent. While Mr. Holder may call the right to vote our most precious right, there are some who might believe that their right to defend themselves against intruders, tyranny or outside invaders is their most precious right.

While a slew of academics, lawmakers and gun control advocates argue that the right to bear arms is antiquated and does more harm than good, a 1995 study by Gary Kleck would suggest otherwise. According to Mr. Kleck’s research, private citizens use firearms in self-defense around 2.5 million times per year.

But ultimately this is about liberty. The Founding Fathers expressly wrote the Bill of Rights, as stated in the preamble “…in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers."

It is appalling to that so many of the leaders that we have elected to serve in furtherance of our liberty would work so hard to take it from us. It is astounding that while they condemn laws that might disenfranchise minorities in one area, they support laws that put minorities, and in fact all law-abiding citizens at a disadvantage to criminals who will buy and use firearms regardless of the law. 

Paul Brown, a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom who served in the Marine Corps for five years, writes about Second Amendment rights at why2a.blogspot.com.

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