“Let me be clear,” Attorney General Eric Holder emphatically declared in a 2012 speech to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, “we will not allow political pretexts to disenfranchise American citizens of their most precious rights.” Holder’s remarks were a call to arms against efforts by Republicans to require that voters show identification when they go to vote. His words reflect a belief that the right to vote is so “precious” that requiring individuals to show an ID before casting a vote is tantamount to being “disenfranchised.”
However, when it comes to protecting the right to “keep and bear arms” – which, unlike the right to vote, is a right expressly guaranteed in the Constitution itself – the Attorney General of the United States is nowhere to be found. Apparently our Second Amendment rights are just not “precious” enough to worry about when governments engage in actions expressly designed to “disenfranchise” individuals from exercising those rights.
The hypocrisy is so blatant it is painful.
Currently 32 states have implemented some variation of voter ID laws to curb election fraud. Nevertheless, these reasonable requirements — well within states’ Tenth Amendment rights to implement — have been the targets of repeated Justice Department threats and legal challenges. The Department argues that simply requiring a valid ID in order to vote — the same that is required for purchasing alcohol, or attending Obama fundraisers — places an unfair, racially-biased burden that threatens the constitutional rights of minorities.
If alleged racial discrimination is the catalyst for such intimidation by the Justice Department, the Department’s silence is deafening in the face of very real efforts by state and local governments to deny and limit the right to keep and bear arms. As noted in a recent report by the Washington Times, some states — notably Illinois, for example — are effectively denying citizens their right to carry concealed firearms by placing a number of costly and time-consuming obstacles in their way; and doing it in such manner as clearly to disproportionately impact minorities and lower-income individuals.
The double standard reflected in the Justice Department’s selective assertion of concern for minority rights is deeply disturbing. Even a ruling in one case earlier this year by U.S. District Court Judge Edmond Chang concluding that “certain fundamental rights,” such as those protected by the Second Amendment, should be “outside government’s reach” and not entrusted to government stewards to protect, has not awakened Holder from his selective slumber.
The findings by the Washington Times illustrate the point convincingly. The newspaper’s research found that burdens such as expensive training and permitting procedures, coupled with lengthy bureaucratic delays in issuing concealed carry permits, hit minority and lower income citizens especially hard. In Illinois, a favored playground for gun control public officials, wealthy white residents hold 90 percent of concealed carry permits.
“There are a lot of systematic and economic barriers that make it difficult for South Side of Chicago residents, many of whom are African-American, to obtain concealed carry permits,” NAACP Illinois State Conference President George Mitchell told the Washington Times. “Some of the barriers include the high costs, time commitment, bureaucracy and the community’s distrust of the police.” The effect of these racially biased restrictions are compounded by gun control regulations that enable local law enforcement officials to deny gun permits for any reason, including many completely unrelated to an individual’s competency to own, possess or use a firearm.
Imagine if voter ID laws were as rigorous as gun regulations found in many of America’s major cities. In order to vote in such a scenario, citizens would be forced to take a day-long class (at a cost of $100 or more) about the basics of the U.S. government and electoral process. They then would be required to take a competency test (only available at inconvenient locations during normal working hours) on the current election’s issues. Finally, after paying a non-refundable processing fee of $100 to score the results, they would then be forced to wait months for the actual voter registration card — which could be rejected for any reason — to arrive in the mail. If a voter decided to seek the help of a tutor to help ensure his non-refundable processing fee was not wasted by a possibly failing grade, he would have to be prepared to shell out another $100.
The obvious solution is to immediately reform the concealed carry licensing procedures, including the power by government officials to deny permits arbitrarily. Should the stringent and financially taxing gun regulations remain in place, as no doubt liberals will argue in spite of the overwhelming evidence about the racial disparity they create, then immediate action should be taken to reduce the costs of obtaining a concealed carry license, which routinely amounts to hundreds of dollars after the costs of safety classes and processing fees that are intentionally inflated to deter applications.
Were this any other issue, the level of bias against the poor and minorities in concealed-carry permitting would have Leftist bloggers, government lawyers, and liberal politicians marching in the streets, and calling for the heads of “racist” Republicans and NRA Members. The fact that this President and his Attorney General remain deaf, dumb and indifferent to the blatantly discriminatory anti-Second Amendment actions by liberal state and local governments, even as they rail against voter ID laws, is testimony to the constitutional hypocrisy that is at the very core of this presidency.
Self-Educated American Contributing Editor, Bob Barr, represented Georgia’s 7th district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 -2003 and as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia from 1986-1990.
Bob Barr is the author of The Meaning of Is: The Squandered Impeachment and Wasted Legacy of William Jefferson Clinton (2004), and LESSONS IN LIBERTY (2008), as well as co-author with Gary Aldrich of Thunder on the Left: An Insider’s Report on the Hijacking of the Democratic Party (2003)