Conservatives are using a comment from former President Bill Clinton's speech at the memorial celebrating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington to falsely suggest that background checks are required for all gun sales.
During his speech, Clinton stated, "A great democracy does not make it harder to vote than to buy an assault weapon."
Clinton appeared to refer to two conservative legislative priorities: Their passage in several states of voter ID laws and other laws that make it harder for people to vote, especially low income and minority voters; and their effort to block earlier this year federal legislation to strengthen and expand the background check system to prevent felons and the dangerously mentally ill from purchasing firearms.
Responding to Clinton's comment, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson facetiously wrote on his RedState.com blog that Clinton had "called for the elimination of background checks to purchase guns." Erickson claims that "purchases of firearms in every state must go through a firearms background check" and thus concludes that since one "does not even need photo identification in every state to vote... I take this statement to mean Bill Clinton wants background checks for gun purchases eliminated."
At TownHall.com, fellow Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich similarly wrote:
Clinton's words came in reference to voter identification laws being passed all over the country which require voters to show government issued photo identification in order to vote. Federal gun laws also require people purchasing firearms to show government issued photo identification. In addition, firearms purchasers are required to undergo a background check.
In fact, under federal law background checks are only required on those who seek to purchase a firearm from a licensed dealer; no such check is needed for those who buy them from private sellers, including at gun shows and online.
Indeed, as Clinton suggested, assault weapons can be purchased in just this manner with less impediment than the voter ID laws conservatives support place on voters. In a 2011 investigation of 10 websites in 14 states that allow unlicensed sellers to list firearms for sale, undercover investigators working for the City of New York found that 77 out of 125 sellers agreed to go forward with a firearm sale even after the purchaser said that he could not pass a background check. Investigators were able to purchase an assault rifle using this method.
Likewise, a review of two months of listings on an online gun sales portal by the center-left think tank Third Way found 5,168 ads for "semi-automatic weapons, including assault weapons."