On Wednesday, in a speech commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, President Bill Clinton connected Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic “I have a dream” speech to the struggles still facing the nation, arguing that the U.S. must strengthen its gun laws to achieve King’s vision of nonviolence. “A great democracy does not make it harder to vote than to buy an assault weapon,” Clinton proclaimed.
While Clinton also called on America to implement health care reform and invest in science and education, the gun line elicited the biggest controversy, leading Alex Seitz-Wald to fact-check the claim. As it turns out, Clinton is correct: individuals can buy assault weapons without showing identification in more than 30 states, while federal law prohibits states from allowing individuals to vote without some form of identification. In recent years, 13 states have passed stricter voter ID requirements and half a dozen more are considering voter suppression measures in the aftermath of the Supreme Court ruling invalidating a key section of the Voting Rights Act.
In fact, a ThinkProgress analysis found that anyone can obtain assault rifles from unlicensed dealers at gun shows or online without a background check in 39 states. Zero states allow people to vote without some proof of identification:
In April, Republican senators — many of whom support strict identification requirements at the polls — helped vote down a proposal that would have significantly expanded the screenings for gun purchases.
To clarify, the “Help America Vote Act of 2002″ (HAVA) requires first time voters who did not register in person to show some form of identification at the polling place before they vote the first time. This post has been updated to eliminate any confusion.