Before, during and after the 2020 election many Republicans followed Trump’s lead and lied about widespread voter/election fraud. Trump and his allies had their days in court, losing all but one case. As noted in other essays, Trump’s allies never claimed fraud in court: they were aware of the need for evidence and the penalties for perjury in that context. So, they confined their lies to the public forum. Using their false claims of widespread fraud and pointing to the doubt they created, they contended that they needed to act. The actions they took were, of course, aimed at trying to restrict voting.
Since voter/election fraud is not widespread, they had no actual problem to address. Instead, the restrictions that are now being imposed in Georgia are clearly aimed at suppressing black voters. They are not aimed at voter fraud—as brief reflection on most of the restrictions will reveal. As an illustration, consider that the law limits early voting to the hours of 9 to 5 (county registrars can extend this to 7 to 7). How this would reduce fraud is utterly unclear, but it does make it harder for voters with less flexible schedules to vote. As another example, Republicans have acted to increase the lines at polling places predominantly used by minorities while also making it a misdemeanor to provide voters with water. While one could advance the absurd claim that people could buy votes with water, there is no plausible account of how this would counter voter/election fraud. These laws were created in response to Trump’s defeat and since Republicans fear they cannot win the popular vote; they are rebooting Jim Crow and thus at war with democracy and the legitimacy of the state.
If the Republican arguments are taken at face value, the following principles would seem to be in operation. The first is that politicians must act to address the concerns of the public (even when these concerns are manufactured by the politicians). The second is that the restriction of a fundamental right is warranted to address problems that occur at even the most minute levels and cause little actual harm. So, let us apply these principles to the matter of gun control.
Most Americans claim that gun violence is a problem and most Americans support gun control. Given the Republican argument about voting laws, it would follow that politicians must act to restrict gun rights. After all, if public concerns about (lies about) voter/election fraud warrant restricting voting rights, then public concerns about guns warrants restricting gun rights. But the actions of Republicans indicates that their professed principle is also a lie: they do not apply it consistently and only use it to “justify” actions they clearly want to take for other reasons. Now to the addressing of harms.
While data on gun violence is limited, there were 19,379 deaths caused by gun violence in the United States in 2020. This excludes deaths caused by suicide using a gun; that number was 24.090 in 202o. In contrast, a careful review of claims about voter/election fraud in 2020 revealed that the number of cases is vanishingly small. If the Republican argument warrants restrictions on voting, then it would (by analogical reasoning) provide exceptionally strong support for gun control laws. After all, if voting must be carefully restricted by law to address a vanishingly small number of cases (that were caught and dealt with using current laws) then the much more significant harms arising from gun ownership must be addressed with new laws of equal or greater restrictiveness.
One could counter that passing gun control laws would violate the Second Amendment; but the easy and obvious response is that the right to vote is more fundamental than any constitutional right. After all, the moral legitimacy of the law depends on the consent of the governed and restricting the right to vote reduces the legitimacy of the state in proportion to those restrictions.
One could, of course, embrace the state of nature argument of Thomas Hobbes and contend that the right of self defense is the most fundamental right of all—even more so than the right to provide or withhold consent. While this does have some appeal, this would not show that the restrictions on voting rights are warranted. Reasoning that it is acceptable to restrict one basic right but not another because the other is more basic is poor logic. To illustrate, this would be like arguing that enslaving people or stealing their property is acceptable because the right to life is more basic than these other rights (since liberty and property require that one be alive). Once again, Republican action shows that their concern is not with mitigating harms—if that were true, they would be applying this principle consistently. As such, their actions reveal their true principles: they want to suppress voting so they can gain and hold onto power illegitimately and they want to serve the interest of the gun lobby over the safety of the American people.