John R. Lott Has A Modest Proposal: Apply Background Checks For Gun Purchases To Voting

One must admire the audacity of the logic.

Commentary: Apply background checks for gun purchases to voting

By John R. Lott Jr., the Chicago Tribune

Republicans worry about vote fraud. Democrats claim that Republicans are just imagining things. But in testimony Tuesday before the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, I will suggest a simple solution that could make both parties happy: Apply the background check system for gun purchases to voting.

Democrats have long lauded background checks on gun purchases as simple, accurate and in complete harmony with the Second Amendment right to own guns. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has bragged that the checks “make our communities and neighborhoods safer without in any way abridging rights or threatening a legitimate part of the American heritage.”

If Democrats really believe that the National Instant Criminal Background Check System doesn’t interfere “in any way” with people’s constitutional rights to own a gun, doesn’t it follow that the same system would not constitute an infringement on people’s right to vote? This would give Republicans a system for stopping vote fraud and Democrats a system that they have already vigorously endorsed.

The NICS system doesn’t just determine if potential gun buyers have criminal histories. It also checks whether a person is in this country illegally, has a nonimmigrant visa or has renounced his citizenship. Such people are not allowed to vote. The system doesn’t currently flag people who are on immigrant visas but who could be added to the system.

Better yet, explicitly link the provisions. The provisions for establishing eligibility to purchase and / or possess weapons shall be identical to the provisions for voter registration and polling.

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  • pennywit

    What if we eat Irish children?

    • That would make you a cannibal. I was speaking to Mr. Lott’s modest proposal, not Swift’s A Modest Proposal.

      • Wild_Willie

        A man who knows his classic essay’s. Great job.

    • Scalia

      So, pennywit, what do you think of the idea?

      • Scalia,

        For the Record: I don’t consider pennywit to be a progtard.

        • pennywit

          For the record: I enjoy screwing with people a little bit.

        • Scalia

          Me neither, but why is he dodging the question?

      • pennywit

        Eating Irish children? They’re kind of stringy.

        • Scalia

          Why are you dodging the question? Ok, I get the joke, and it was mildly funny, but you know what I’m asking.

          • pennywit

            Dodging the question for fun, honestly. It’s been boring today.

          • pennywit

            There you go, my thoughts on the matter. Ask and ye shall receive.

      • pennywit

        If I take it seriously?

        From a constitutional standpoint, I think instant-background checks pass muster for guns because you can argue that the inherent, immediate danger of a firearm landing in the hands of a felon — it enables him to immediately, say, rob a convenience store or kill somebody. A vote doesn’t have the same immediate, inherent danger that you can argue is a compelling government interest.

        Additionally, there’s the opportunity factor. If a person is wrongly denied a gun because of the instant background check, he has the ability to appeal it. If he can’t buy the gun today, he still has the ability to buy it next week. If a voter is wrongly denied his opportunity to vote the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November, he can’t come back the following week — the election is already over.

        I don’t care for an instant background check for voting. Not at all. However, if I saw that a legislature were wanted to implement it, I’d want it packaged with the following:

        * A process to easily obtain, without cost to the individual voter, the prerequisities for voting, whether that involves obtaining a state-provided identification or some form of biometrics. A person must be able to obtain such identification or go to his biometrics appointment without being arrested for outstanding warrants or state or federal government doing anything that interferes with his right to vote. (Note: You maintain your right to vote until you have been convicted of a crime).

        * Polls must be open for longer than a day — two weeks to a month would be appropriate, I think — to ensure that individuals who are wrongly denied the right to vote have a chance to dispute that denial through an expedited administrative process.

        * Employers should be required to give their employees one paid holiday during the voting period so those employees can vote.

        * There must be an unbreachable (or as unbreachable as possible) wall between the voter-ID computers and the actual ballot box to ensure the secret ballot is preserved.

        * Voters must be notified, in writing, of precisely why they fail the voting background check.

        * There must be a provision to notify absentee-ballot voters if their ballot has been denied, along with the reasons for that denial.

        * Voting-day volunteers need to be replaced by paid professionals who understand how to use the background-check software.

        * The federal government must provide all funding for local boards of election to implement the instant background-check system.

        * The instant-background check system must be subjected to regular scrutiny to ensure the integrity of the data therein — that is, that the data has not been altered in any way.

        * The instant-background check system must be stress-tested no later than six months before any plebescite to ensure it can handle the strain of voting day.

        * If the instant-background check is nonfunctional, then the voters who show up at a polling station must be allowed to vote.

        Also, if I were in a legislature passing this bill, I would seek an amendment that ends partisan gerrymandering.

        • jim_m

          SO the imminent danger of disenfranchising someone else is not a problem for you? The imminent danger of violating someone’s constitutional rights is not a problem to you?
          Duly noted.

        • Situations which would make the keeping and bearing of arms a really good idea may arise quite suddenly and without warning. Elections are scheduled months and years in advance.

          A perception of electoral fraud is corrosive to the civic health of our Republic. Rigorous voter role vetting and voter verification are essential to elections perceived to be honest and upright.

          Vote fraud, attempted vote fraud, and conspiracy to fradulently vote must be criminal matters which are actively investigated and prosecuted.

          Requirements and regulations for Voter Registration and Polling should be exactly the same as those pertaining to exercise of the Second Amendment.

          • Retired military

            INTENTIONAL Voter fraud should carry automatic sentence of at least 2 years in jail and total revocation of voting privileges for life. But instead they at most pay a fine and very few if any go to jail.

        • Scalia

          Thanks for the reply.

          First, the compelling government interest is the integrity of its elections. Without a valid mechanism for identifying legal voters, non-citizens can vote. If non-citizens can vote, our elections are, by definition, illegal and illegitimate.

          Though illegal voting does not pose an immediate physical threat to the citizens of a Republic, it certainly directly threatens the Republic itself. Since voting is sacrosanct, the election process is equally sacrosanct. Indifference to one is indifference to the other. Government, therefore, has a compelling interest to ensure that every voter is legally eligible to cast a ballot.

          Second, since you appear to favor a background check before I exercise my constitutional right to keep and bear a firearm, then you cannot in principle oppose a background check before I exercise my right to vote. In order to endorse the former over the latter obligates you to argue why ensuring election integrity is not a compelling government interest. Compelling interest is not restricted to physical harm. Government may exercise eminent domain due to a compelling interest, and that has nothing to do with imminent physical harm. As you are aware, there are myriad other issues that justify government regulation, so an appeal to physical harm does not undermine the comparison.

          As to the rest of your recommendations, I’m all for a legitimate appeal period. Perhaps all may be resolved by cutting off registration some time before Election Day.

          • Some time well before election day.

          • Scalia


          • pennywit

            First, the compelling government interest is the integrity of its elections. Without a valid mechanism for identifying legal voters, non-citizens can vote. If non-citizens can vote, our elections are, by definition, illegal and illegitimate.

            Though illegal voting does not pose an immediate physical threat to the citizens of a Republic, it certainly directly threatens the Republic itself. Since voting is sacrosanct, the election process is equally sacrosanct. Indifference to one is indifference to the other. Government, therefore, has a compelling interest to ensure that every voter is legally eligible to cast a ballot.

            Suffice it to say that both background checks would have to satisfy strict scrutiny to pass constitutional muster … and you and I have articulated arguments for both.

          • jim_m

            You mean that using them to deny a person’s 2A rights would never require strict scrutiny? Some Constitutional rights are more worthy than others of Constitutional protection?

          • Scalia

            I don’t think he said that. He said, “…both background checks would have to satisfy strict scrutiny…” I took his “both” to refer to voting and firearms.

          • jim_m

            It seems that they have already passed for firearms, therefore one can assume that if they do in one case they do in all. The applications are irrelevant as long as the question is do they unfairly restrict a person from exercising their constitutional rights.

          • Scalia

            Oh, I most definitely agree. I think pennywit’s pass to my rebuttal implies he at least cannot counter the point.

          • pennywit

            I’m far less concerned with the rationale behind such a system than I am with how it is implemented, as you no doubt gathered from the above.

          • Scalia

            You said you didn’t care for IBCs for voting, and the main thrust of this thread is the support for one over the other by mainstream liberals. To me, its implementation is getting the cart before the horse. As you can gather from my posts, I’m more concerned with the principle. We can talk implementation later.

          • pennywit

            There are issues I care about deeply and issues I don’t care that deeply about. This one isn’t a hill I would die on.

          • Which hill is?

          • pennywit

            Don’t know yet, honestly.

          • pennywit

            But since you insist …

            I think that given the history of voting-rights restrictions, a voting instant-background check is going to have a harder time passing muster in court than a firearms instant background check.

          • Scalia

            That’s a long, long time ago. How in the world can anybody rationally claim that the proper identification of voters is racist? And even if some proponents are racist, that has no bearing on ID laws and background checks so long as they are applied equally.

          • pennywit

            A long, long time ago? Still recent enough that a judge would take it into consideration .. and VERY recently North Carolina enacted a measure that contained measures that (in the words of the appellate court) targeted African-American voters “with almost surgical precision.”

          • Appellate court hears dog whistle of racism…

          • pennywit

            It is worth noting that the North Carolina legislature passed the law after specifically requesting and reviewing data about African-Americans’ voting patterns.

          • Scalia


            They may never admit it, but the civil rights industry is tired of spending millions of dollars only to lose most voter ID fights in court. Instead of declaring defeat, the strategy has shifted to changing the rules of engagement, and trying to transform the Voting Rights Act into something it isn’t. The Supreme Court can now stop this transformation of the Voting Rights Act into a partisan political weapon, if it accepts an appeal from North Carolina.

            The civil rights industry, which includes swarms of career employees in the Justice Department, has been losing voter ID fights for the better part of a decade. They have been foiled by laws which take into account that some voters may not be ID-ready, but provisions are made to service them, like in South Carolina. Judges have also noted where states extended timelines for enforcement so citizens can prepare for the change. Most important, courts have acknowledged that such laws do not target minorities and are equally applied to all. It certainly does not hurt that federal judges are aware that polling shows how voter ID is more popular among poorer minorities than wealthy liberal whites.

            Because voter ID is overwhelmingly popular, and because courts have largely supported it, they are trying to change what the Voting Rights Act means. They are trying to transform the law away from a protecting against real world disenfranchisement, to a statistical game that aims to protect Democratic political power. If an election theoretically has a disparate impact on Democrats, then the Voting Rights Act is violated.

            They can press this ugly transformation of America’s most important civil rights law because they have spent 30 years stoking the flames of racial polarization and trying to make “black” synonymous with “Democrat.”

            Unlike most voter ID litigation, North Carolina has followed a strange path. Normally, trial courts make detailed factual findings that appeals courts cannot disturb, much less replace. The district court was appreciative of the North Carolina’s safety net for those without ID to still have access to a regular ballot. It was not lost on the court that the timeline for implementation was measured in years — not weeks. Given all of this, the district court predictably gave North Carolina’s voter ID package a clean bill of health. South Carolina had a nearly identical law approved by another federal court sitting in Washington D.C. using even more exacting review standards.

            On appeal, however, the judges ruled in the exact opposite direction for North Carolina: claiming that the state went out of its way to intentionally discriminate against minorities. It did this by substituting its own version of the facts, even though appeals courts don’t see witnesses, and even though experts for the United States were found to be not credible.

          • How about that dog whistle…

          • pennywit

            And I’ve seen the commentary from the other side — that the district court judge completely ignored factual evidence that was presented, and a circuit court corrected that error.

            Shades of the Vorlon proverb: “Understanding is a three-edged sword.”

          • Scalia

            Well, I guess the opinion, speaks for itself.

          • Scalia

            It seems that anything that tries to vet voters is racism to liberal judges. Real racism was a long, long time ago. Liberals think we’re living in the Jim Crow era.

          • pennywit

            If you want to put in place a voter-ID regime that will last, then you’ll have assuage liberals’ concerns — whether those concerns are raised by liberal voters, liberal legislators, or liberal judges. If you don’t assuage their concerns, then you’ll have a hard time enacting the system and preserving it.

            I think this Gallup poll points to a plausible direction: Preserve the election system’s integrity by requiring photo ID, but increase access to the polls with early voting.

          • Retired military

            ” then you’ll have assuage liberals’ concerns — ”
            Why not something that would assuage conservative concerns? I see you are in favor of requiring a voter ID but liberal politicians will never go for that willingly.
            As for increasing access to the polls with early voting – folks generally have 2 weeks to vote (in Texas). How much more time do you want?

          • pennywit

            Why not something that would assuage conservative concerns?

            Mainly because conservatives, not liberals, are pushing for expanded voter ID (or this gentleman’s voter background check). If conservatives are trying to build a new program, they have to placate a certain number of liberals. If liberals are trying to build something, they have to placate a certain number of conservatives.

            As for increasing access to the polls with early voting – folks generally have 2 weeks to vote (in Texas). How much more time do you want?

            For clarification, are you talking about early voting (go to the polling place and vote) or absentee voting (order the ballot, fill it out, sign it, and send it back)?

          • Retired military

            Early voting.
            Same day registration I can live with on provisional ballots and if those provisional ballots are used to decide the outcome (many of them aren’t because if you have 5k provisional ballots and person A wins the election by 40k then nobody bothers to really count them) then the ballots have to be verified that the person a. was who they say they were before they voted (present picture ID) and b. that they are a resident of the state they voted in and c. They did not vote in any other states for that election. Something that is costly to prove and would most likely invalidate the person’s privacy in voting without someone knowing who they voted for.

          • pennywit

            OK. Not every state has early voting. A conservative acquaintance of mine in NC a couple cycles back told me about how right-wingers there were trying to get rid of early voting. That’s why I mention it.

            I think two weeks to a month is enough time for early voting … and ideally the polls would be open on the weekends as well as weekdays during the early voting period.

            I don’t think people should have to take time off work (sometimes losing wages) so they can vote.

          • Scalia

            I believe I’ve stated that I don’t oppose early voting. Voting absentee is one of the best ways to do that.

            From a racial standpoint, I couldn’t care less what liberal sensitivities are in that regard. It is perfectly legal to demand that prospective voters are United States citizens and to demand proof that prospective voters are citizens. That’s why, saving for few exceptions, the vast majority of voter-id cases have passed constitutional muster.

            The liberal objection that this will somehow suppress minority turnout is itself racist. It assumes that minorities are incapable of obtaining very easy to obtain identification. Instead of bellyaching about racism, they should spend their time informing these so-called ignorant masses how to obtain id. That way, they’d show their support for citizen voting and for the minorities they’re pretending to protect. I say “pretending” because many liberals in fact endorse non-citizen voting and are all-too-willing to look the other way when concerns are raised.

          • Wild_Willie

            It should be added here that in the last election cycle New Hampshire had 6500 votes from people from MA who stated on the same day voting form that they relocated to NH and did not update their driver licenses. They still have not to this day. Then they learn most were brought in by bus. Background checks need to happen.

          • If you haven’t read it (it’s the Featured Comment), you should read justanotherjohn’s comment on my post from August 6th:

            I did a quick bit of calculation using Leip’s political atlas. In all of those counties named, Clinton won except Lassen (which had less than 10,000 total votes cast for Clinton and Trump).
            Combined the counties provided 2,668,903 more votes for Clinton than Trump. If you assume that the “excess registrations” all went to Clinton, that is 979,433 votes for Clinton. Clinton received 2,868,518 more popular votes than Trump. So all but 199,615 of that popular vote advantage can be traced to these 11 California counties. Of course California as a whole had Clinton win by over 4 million.
            Further, remember this is just where the system has become egregious, more voters registered than US citizens. According to, in 2016, 66.8% of eligible voters were registered. So while getting to 100+% without cheating is clearly out of bounds, counties that have a much higher than 66.8% can also be looked at with a skeptical eye.
            If you take these counties that went for Clinton and assume that all the votes over 66.8% went for Clinton, that totals 1,926, 551 or nearly half the extra votes Clinton got in California. In short, maybe the entire democratic dominance in California is based on voter fraud?

        • Retired military

          “A vote doesn’t have the same immediate, inherent danger that you can argue is a compelling government interest.”
          I know many a liberal who would disagree with you right about now.

          • pennywit

            Many a liberal needs to wake up and smell the beans.

  • Scalia

    Excellent idea!

  • jim_m

    Love it! You cannot argue that the background checks are not inhibiting anyone from exercising their rights to gun ownership and simultaneously maintain that they are racial discrimination when it comes to voting.

    • Oh, they’ll argue. You KNOW they’ll argue… it’s in their DNA.

      • Not so much as a single bite on G+ where I challenged any and all to counter the argument…

        • Wow. That’s actually hard to believe.

        • I mean, there’s folks out there that’ll argue that gravity is simply a by-product of the patriarchy, or that the world is actually flat, rendering satellites actually impossible. (Satellite radio? That’s from cell towers, as are GPS signals…)

          Sigh. We humans are a crazy bunch, aren’t we?

        • pennywit

          Does anybody actually use Google+?

      • jim_m

        I actually just pulled this on a lefty at work here. He hesitated and finally capitulated, saying that he guesses that it is a fair argument. If you present the claim that the NICS check does not impede gun ownership and get agreement on that first they are powerless to make an argument against it.

        • Intellectual judo. “We’ve established that (X) doesn’t impede a particular Constitutionally guaranteed right, correct?”


          “So why not extend it to voting?”

          And the body hits the mat, HARD…

  • Not just if you are in the country legally, but are you a resident of that state? I cannot cross a state line and legally purchase a weapon that is not handled through a dealer in my state of residence.
    A background check of this nature would assure that you are not only a citizen but a resident of the state in which you are voting. Two thumbs up!

  • BTW, Rodney, my first impression after reading the headline was that he was suggesting that only CCW license holders should be allowed to vote, ala Starship Troopers.
    It would be a polite electorate.

    • Nah. But I do approve of Heinlein’s ideas on Citizenship.

      • pennywit

        If that government somehow arose, I wonder how many generations it would take before the scions of privileged families could undertake a sinecure to secure their voting citizenship.

        • Did you ever read the book? A lot of the ‘privileged families’ looked down on service. All that time and possible hazard just to get a vote? It wasn’t worth it. (And the service wasn’t all military, either.)

          • pennywit

            I’ve read it quite often since I saw the book about thirty-some years ago. Just finished rereading it a couple weeks ago on my Kindle app.

          • pennywit

            Hence my thought. If we tried that system in the real world, how many families — say, two or three generations of people who do military service — would then look for sinecures (say, Chief Nursery Officer) so their kids can do military “service” and earn the vote?

            The book suggests that military esprit de corps and service members’ commitment to duty are a bulwark against that kind of thing. But I wonder how long that could last in the real world.

          • All systems will at some point be gamed. It is incumbent upon the citizenry to prevent those who would game the system from seizing control of the system. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be.

          • pennywit

            “Who watches the watchers?” “The watchers watch each other.”

            That’s very Vimes of you.

          • I haven’t read much Pratchett…

          • pennywit

            For the most part, I stopped reading new Discworld books not long after Going Postal. From that book onward, plots stopped to be real challenges for the main characters, and the satire started to get way too anvilicious. I do recall Vimes answering the “Who watches the watchers?” question in Thud!, though.

          • I really think it’d depend on how it was seen culturally, overall. Military families tend to have kids that go into the military at some point in their lives, no matter the cultural zeitgeist. But these things do tend to go in cycles, and I wouldn’t even pretend to predict what the military’s going to be seen as in ten years, much less a couple of hundred.

            Plus there were a lot more ways to serve than in the military – we just followed Rico through his career. “Veteran” was the term used for anyone who’d done their time in government service, not just the military. I could see a “Disaster Recovery Corps”, for example, or a “Civilian Health Corps” – or, as the author described for a blind handicapped guy ‘counting caterpillar fuzz by feel’. (paraphrased)

            The thing was, if you WANTED to serve, they’d find a way for you to do it. If you didn’t, you had all the rights of someone who did – you just couldn’t vote.

          • pennywit

            One thing here. To this day, I admire a single sentence from Starship Troopers. It’s the scene where the narrator is about to be flogged. Sgt. Zim gives him a mouthpiece and says (if I recall), “This will help. I know.” Sgt. Zim was presented as the near-perfect MI soldier, but those two sentences added so much depth to the character.

          • BTW, if you’re interested in some good SF, you might want to try Mackey Chandler’s ‘Family Law’ series.

            The premise is simple – what happens if a member of an ursinoid alien species fosters/adopts a human orphan?

            What is ‘family’ doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with species. Maybe you’d like it.

          • pennywit

            That’s an interesting concept, and it sounds like a great metaphor to explore cross-cultural adoption.

          • Good read, too – it’s been a while since I’ve run across a book I couldn’t put down like that one.

          • pennywit

            I’ll take a look. Right now, I’m rereading Doctor Sleep, Stephen King’s sequel to The Shining. It’s an engrossing read. The Shining is about addiction, and Sleep is about recovery and redemption.

          • Never got into King, for whatever reason.

            Oh, well – so many books, so little time…

          • pennywit

            Many, many books, and Stephen King isn’t for everyone.

            Rereading The Shining was an interesting experience. I first read it when I was around nine years old. At the time, I was mostly focused on Danny Torrance, the kid with the psychic powers who was seeing lots of ghosts. As an adult, I read The Shining as a much more frightening parable on alcoholism.

          • Retired military

            Never read the shining. Didn’t really care for the movie. I have read both versions of The Stand but far enough apart where I couldn’t name the differences.
            Read IT about 35 years ago. I plan on reading it again since I watched the movie (There is going to be a part 2 if you didn’t know). The only thing I remember about the book that never made it into the movies or mini series was the part about the turtle. Thought that King spent about 200 pages on nothing there. I checked on Amazon and the prices for the book are outrageous right now. I will get mine from a used book store.
            I liked the one with the author I thought it was good and the movie did it justice. Liked the Tommyknockers and the movie was okay. I think the best book that King did (and the movie did it justice) was The Dark Half but The Stand is right up there as well.
            Havent read anything King did since The Dark half. Couldn’t get into them at all. The Dark Tower movie was okay but never read the stories.
            I currently have about 140 books at home to read from a wide variety of authors.
            If you like zombie fiction then may I suggest the ARISEN series on amazon for the kindle. The author is getting ready to publish the last 2 (of 14) books in the series. I hate stories that never seem to end (reason why I stopped reading game of thrones and Wheel of time series). But this series was published in the entire time that Jordan has been promising his latest book in GOT.

          • pennywit

            I find It interesting as a cultural artifact about Stephen King’s childhood. Back in the 1950s during the summer, you let your kids wander around the neighborhood as long as they stayed together and didn’t get into trouble. These days, kids’ activities are pretty regimented. The Losers Club kids played in the woods. Today’s kids have really safe plastic playground sets.

            But probably the biggest cultural artifact, I think, is how the Losers Club handled trouble. Once they figured out adults weren’t going to be of any help, the kids hatted up and faced down It themselves. I don’t see today’s kids doing something like that.

          • Retired military
          • jim_m

            A single generation would suffice

          • Tyranny is never more than a single generation away…