Gun Rights vs. Voting Rights in America
As the presidential campaign heats up, we expect no issue will be off the table. And as always, the argument over gun rights and gun ownership is sure to fire off some heated debates. It’s an issue discussed time and time again, the sanctity of the constitution and the second amendment sure to be invoked. But when it comes to another amendment, or rather – a few of them – surrounding the very making of a democracy and the right to vote…that discussion is had far less often.
The 2nd Amendment, the right to bear arms, is a right transcribed into the very fabric of our culture and into our constitution.
“There’s only a certain number of things that were put into the Constitution by the founders and they put the right to bear arms in for a couple reasons,” said Jim Hanson, gun rights advocate and founder of the Warrior Legacy Foundation. “ They had just finished a violent revolution. They overthrew an oppressive government.”
And to understand just how many people enjoy that freedom today, you need look no further than the information on background checks for firearm purchases on what is typically one of the busiest days of the year for potential gun buyers– the day after Thanksgiving (aka “Black Friday”).
This year the record was broken for checks in a single day with 129,166 , a 32% increase from 2008. Here’s a look at the last four years:
Nov 28, 2008: 97,848
Nov 27, 2009: 83,660
Nov 26, 2010: 87,061
Nov 25, 2011: 129,166
“I think right now the reason so many people are applying for firearm licenses is they were afraid the Obama administration was going to take active steps to ban the,” Hanson said.
And whether or not that’s true, the gun-loving portion of America remains a group whose affection many would-be politicians often try to win and political ads and campaign speeches.
As the second amendment is increasingly celebrated and the number of gun owners expand…the right to vote – listed in the 15th, 19th and 26th amendments…is narrowing. And new policies and initiatives mean as many as five million eligible voters will lose that right to choose who the next person is to occupy the white house.
According to the Brennan Center for Justice, the 14 states listed below have already passed measures to make voting more difficult, not less.
10. WEST VIRGINIA
13. SOUTH CAROLINA
14. RHODE ISLAND
New measures include restrictions on where people can register to vote, less time for *early* voting and stricter laws requiring people to provide government issued photo IDs.
“African Amercans, and other racial and ethnic minorities are very heavily targeted,” said Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP Washington Bureau. “The poor, those who don’t drive cars or have cars are also very heavily targeted.”
He said the policies hearken back to the days of Jim Crow and bring back old obstacles thought to be eliminated by the voting rights signed in 1965, when President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law.
In a speech, he said, “This most basic right of all was the right to choose your own leaders. The history of this country in large measure is the history of expansion of the right to all of our people”
It is a history now reversing itself with new laws also targeting convicted felons, who have completed their sentences, have jobs and pay taxes. In Florida, Iowa, Virginia and Kentucky, anyone convicted of a felony has their right to vote denied permanently.
“If the idea of prison is to rehabilitate, wouldn’t one of the practices we’d want them to master is the ability to participate in our electoral process,” Shelton asked.
In Texas, students are limited in their right to vote, since Student ID’s are not accepted, though handgun licenses are.
Texas Governor Rick Perry signed the bill and in his speech said,
“It’s the integrity of every vote , that every vote counts”
The question for many others though is how many votes won’t be counted because they are barred from ever being cast?