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Access to assault weapons vs. access to the ballot box

Associated Press

There were some memorable moments at yesterday's event celebrating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, but concern over voting rights was a constant theme throughout the day, and former President Bill Clinton delivered one of the more striking lines: "A great democracy does not make it harder to vote than to buy an assault weapon."

That's a great quote, which made the rounds with lightning speed, but is it rooted in fact? Salon's Alex Seitz-Wald took a closer look and found that it's "absolutely true."

[I]n strict voter ID states, [voters must show a] government-issued photo ID, and some states, like Texas, don't even allow out-of-state IDs. These restrictions can be a big burden for millions of people who don't have drivers licenses or birth certificates, or who lost them, or who don't live near a DMV, etc.

As for guns, under federal law, you can buy a gun through a private seller without even showing an ID. And assault weapons have been fair game since the ban on them expired in 2004.

Many states have added their own limits on assault-weapon ownership, but plenty have not. Seitz-Wald added, "[I]n states like Texas and Virginia, which have both recently enacted voter ID laws, it is safe to say that, once those laws go into effect, it will absolutely be easier to purchase an assault weapon than to vote. No ID required to buy the gun, a government-issued photo ID needed to vote."

If one considers voting more dangerous than owning an AR-15, then I'm sure this makes perfect sense. But if one disagrees, then Clinton's argument is quite persuasive and it's hard not to wonder whether the values in some parts of our great democracy are wildly off track.