The Parkland school shooting has once again opened up a national debate about how easy it is to buy assault weapons in the United States of America. This country has the highest rate of civilian gun ownership in the world, with Yemen coming in second.
The truth is that in most states, it is easier to purchase a gun than it is to vote.
In 2013, a ThinkProgress analysis found that while in every state you need proof of ID to vote, in 39 states you can buy an assault rifle at gun shows or online without a background check and with no proof of ID. About 40 percent of gun purchases in the United States happen through this “gun show loophole.” Florida is one of those 39 states.
Nikolas Cruz, aged 19, could not legally buy a drink, but he could legally purchase the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle used in the shooting. It’s the same type of gun used in massacres at Sandy Hook, Aurora, San Bernadino, and Las Vegas. Cruz bought this gun legally, according to Peter J. Forcelli, the special agent in charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Miami.
You don’t need a license or registration to own a gun. Assault weapons are unregulated. For rifles and shotguns, you do not need a permit to conceal carry (though handguns do require it). You can buy as many guns at one time as you want. A gun seller in Florida needs no license to sell guns in the state. And according to Florida state law, “Furnishing weapons to minors under 18 years of age or persons of unsound mind and furnishing firearms to minors under 18 years of age [is] prohibited.”
Federal law requires licensed gun sellers to complete a background check before selling a gun — unlicensed or private sellers are free of this requirement under both federal law and Floridian law.
Voting, however, is only getting harder, and it’s because Florida has made it harder to register to vote for years. The state even refused to extend the voter registration period while millions were fleeing Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Florida is one of just a few states that permanently bars felons from voting, although this year voters will vote on a constitutional amendment that would change this. For years, Floridians have endured reduced early voting hours, voter purges, and voter registration restrictions. Florida has no online voter registration in place, unlike most other states.
To vote on Election Day in Florida, in fact, you must present some form of photo identification. One form that is allowed is a “license to carry a concealed weapon or firearm issued pursuant to s. 790.06,” for those who purchased a handgun from a licensed seller.
It is easier buy a gun than do many things in America, including: get birth control, purchase Sudafed, or acquire food stamps.
Australia, after a deadly mass shooting over 20 years ago, drastically curtailed the ways in which its citizens could obtain guns. This resulted in a society where mass shootings do not happen. Voting, however, is compulsory, and requires only that you answer three questions: your name, address, and whether you voted already.