Bill Clinton's voter ID fallacy

Yesterday, once again, the Internet was aflutter with the slippery words of Bill Clinton. “A great democracy,” the former president claimed, “does not make it harder to vote than to buy an assault weapon.” This is vintage stuff from Slick Willy: It contains just about enough truth to seem credible while leaving a distinct and outsized — and thoroughly misleading — impression upon the listeners, most of whom will never bother to check the facts. …

No, not really. Seitz-Wald’s defense of Clinton’s claim rests entirely upon the lack of regulation of private sales. Background checks are required for all firearms sold by licensed gun sellers (including at gun shows), for all firearms sold by gun stores, and for all firearms sold by vendors over the Internet. In other words, they are required when, like voting, the transaction is public. They are not required for non-commercial trades, which are mostly conducted between acquaintances and which represent a small fraction of all firearms purchases (so-called assault weapons represent a fraction of those sales, too). Furthermore, that federal law does not require private sellers to conduct background checks is not the whole story. The states of California, Oregon, Colorado, Illinois, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Jersey most certainly do. It is true that if you’re desperate to get hold of a firearm without an ID, in much of the country you can. But it’s not the normal way of buying a gun, which is clearly the impression that Clinton sought to leave.