I've seen claims in several places that in some parts of the United States of America, the bureaucratic procedure to register to vote is more difficult/complicated than to get a permit to buy a personal firearm.
The voter ID bill – which has made it harder to vote – was signed into law last year under the watch of newly-elected Governor Tom Corbett. Current estimates show that the new voter ID law will negatively affect over 750,000 people – mostly minority and democratic-leaning voters – within the state of Pennsylvania.
So far, under Corbett’s watch, the process of purchasing weapons has become progressively easier while, at the same time, voting has become more difficult; to the point where it is now harder to vote than it is to buy a rifle.
And Virginia is not alone... Many GOP-controlled state legislatures across the nation are now moving to implement voter suppression laws before the 2012 elections. Of the eight states that require residents to show photo identification before voting -- Texas, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, South Carolina, Kansas, Indiana and Wisconsin -- all allow residents to purchase firearms through private sales without undergoing any type of background check or showing any form of identification. These sales are cash and carry, and no paperwork is required. 23 other states require residents to produce some form of identification before voting (though not necessarily a photo ID). Of those 23, only Rhode Island prohibits all private sales of firearms (Connecticut requires background checks for private sales of handguns only). Finally, in a development that may or not be coincidental, some states are now allowing residents to use a concealed handgun permit as an acceptable document to verify identity when voting, but not a student ID card issued by a public university.
Is it anywhere in the United States easier to get a firearm than to register to vote?
In any state, when purchasing at a gun show or from a private citizen, no formal registration or procedure is needed except for the purchase itself. So in those cases registering for voting, which is something that requires a procedure is harder that legally buying a gun.
While what KeithS saying is only true for professional gun sellers.
U.S. federal law requires persons engaged in interstate firearm commerce, or those who are "engaged in the business" of dealing firearms, to hold a Federal Firearms License and perform background checks through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System maintained by the FBI prior to transferring a firearm. Under the terms of the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986, however, individuals "not engaged in the business" of dealing firearms, or who only make "occasional" sales within their state of residence, are under no requirement to conduct background checks on purchasers or maintain records of sale (although even private sellers are forbidden under federal law from selling firearms to persons they have reason to believe are felons or otherwise prohibited from purchasing firearms).
The problem is that there is no regulation on the holding of guns. Here (in Israel) a permit is needed not only to buy a gun but also to hold it. So even if you find a gun on the street you can't legally hold it unless you have a permit for that gun specifically. And every sale, even between private people, must go through the Ministry of Interior Affairs.
Since that regulation doesn't exists in the US, almost everyone can hold a gun and can buy a gun from a private individual selling his firearm. And if you wish to have a greater variety to choose from, you can go to a gun show and buy from the vast variety there.
Purchasing deadly weapons in the United States is easy — especially at a gun show. Buyers can scoop up semiautomatic weapons and extended magazines from private dealers at these shows without undergoing a background check.
Moreover, individuals on the U.S. terrorism watch list are forbidden from air travel but may purchase a weapon. A recent report by the Government Accountability Office documented this “terror gap”: From February 2004 through February 2010, 1,228 individuals on the watch list underwent background checks to purchase firearms or explosives; 1,119, or 91 percent, of these transactions were approved. In an update published in April, the GAO reported that some 200 individuals on the watch list were approved for weapons purchases from March 2010 through December 2010.
"Criminals already know how to take advantage of gaps in our gun laws, and now Al Qaeda knows, too," said Bloomberg in a statement. "Americans, including NRA members, overwhelmingly support stronger laws to keep guns away from terrorists and other dangerous people. You are checked against the terror watch list to board an airplane, but you don't have to be checked when buying assault weapons. Weak gun laws aren't just a crime problem, they're a national security threat - and this ad should be a wake-up call to Congress."
Handguns cost hundreds of dollars and an assault rifle (definitions of these weapons vary) easily costs over a thousand dollars, even for a used model.
The next barrier to gun ownership is registration.
Registering to vote can be done extremely easily online, at voter registration election offices, at the department of motor vehicles, at public assistance agencies, at armed services recruitment centers, at state-funded programs that serve people with disabilities, and more. 1
There are fewer activities that are easier to perform than registering to vote! It can be done at 17 years old, younger than the age required to own a gun in the US, which is 18 for long guns (21 in New York State 2 and some other jurisdictions) and 21 is the the minimum age to own a handguns in the entire United States.
The next barrier to gun ownership are background checks.
Buying a gun from a dealer requires a background check. This is true of a dealer at a gun show. A private sale at a gun show, depending on jurisdiction, does not always have the background check requirement 3. However less than 4% of sales occur at gun shows 4.
When buying a gun from a dealer anywhere in the US you must fill out federal form ATF 4473 that clearly states that drug users (even legal marijuana users), convicted felons, and many other classes of persons are absolutely barred from buying a gun for life 5 and the actual form is here: 6. Yes, you can lie about drug use at the risk of a long jail sentence but your criminal record will be revealed after you present your ID to the seller for checking.
In contrast there is no background check for voter registration. State laws permitting drug use do not stop a person from registering to vote. Voting is permanently restricted only for convicted felons and then only in 11 states. 7 The other 39 states handle felons differently and most only restrict felons while actually incarcerated (same source).
There are pending Voter ID laws that will impose an identification barrier to voting in a few states, but in no case will the ID requirements exceed those of those required of a gun buyer. 8
The next barrier is licensing.
There may indeed be some rural place in the US where acquiring a gun is less difficult than in other places. However, the majority of Americans live in urban areas and cities. These places tend to have extremely onerous gun laws, with the possible exception of Texas. Jurisdictions such as San Francisco, New York City, Detroit, Chicago, Washington DC, etc put up such enormous legal barriers to gun ownership that the rates of legal ownership in these places is virtually zero 9. There are also far fewer registered gun owners in the U.S. (about 20% 10 than registered voters (over 70% 11). This speaks to the relative difficulty.
In DC for example, there are 20 distinct steps to getting a gun. 12 The cost to acquire a gun permit in New York City costs hundreds of dollars and requires several visits to a basement office. 13
Then the final barrier is purchase and transport.
Having a car is probably going to be necessary to bringing your gun home. A car, obviously, is not required to register to vote or to perform actual voting, which can usually be done by absentee ballot. Furthermore, polling places are selected for their proximity to the voter, whereas gun dealers and gun shows are limited by zoning and regulation to specific districts and venues.
The final barrier is the law.
What is hard? Living as a felon with an illegal gun is hard.
Some of the barriers I've laid out can be avoided by illegal acquisition. This is true, if you don't mind risking a long jail sentence it becomes a bit easier to get a gun. Not that getting a gun illegally is easy, it does provide a way to bypass background checks and licensing requirements.
A note on gun shows.
Gun shows are a place where the law is hard to enforce. You might find an illegal high capacity magazine at a gun show. You may find an unscrupulous seller who will not do a background check. But you simply can't just go to a gun show whenever you like. You have to wait for one to happen! They generally take place only on weekends 14 and only at certain specific venues. Cities like Washington DC and NYC simply do not allow them. You also have to research the date and location of a gun show and then arrive there to make your transaction. And you are almost certainly going to need transportation to get to one.
You need to decide which is easier, now that you have some facts. Personally, I think getting a gun takes money, knowledge of the law and legwork and nearly always requires filling out a form at a gun dealer. You need a clean criminal record. You also cannot have a state marijuana card! This is far more difficult than simply registering to vote which takes a pen and 30 minutes plus a trip to the mailbox. In 20 states you can do it online and never even leave your house!