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By Laura Schulte May 22, 2020

Lawmaker correct that gun access is easier than adopting a dog or registering to vote in America

Wisconsin state Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, has a take on why gun control is badly needed: 

"Getting access to a gun in America is easier than adopting a dog or registering to vote."

The statement was made in a Dec. 13, 2019 news release, on the anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. But it mirrored many statements that came in the wake of the Feb. 26, 2020 shooting at the Miller brewery complex in Milwaukee. 

And it remains somewhat of a timeless talking point. 

In the release, Taylor said she vividly remembered the day the Sandy Hook shooting took place, as her son was in first grade at the time. She then said that Republican lawmakers are no closer to enacting legislation that would protect children from gun violence now than they were then. 

We asked Taylor for backup, her staff sent back information on the laws and regulations surrounding gun ownership, dog ownership and voting in Wisconsin. 

So we’ll start there. 

Is it easier to get a gun than to adopt a four-legged friend or register to vote? 

Getting a gun

PolitiFact Wisconsin has previously written about gun sales in Wisconsin, and how purchases through a licensed dealer are different from purchases from a private seller. 

If someone buys a gun from a licensed dealer, they must undergo a background check. For handguns, that check is run by the state Department of Justice. For long guns -- such as rifles or shotguns -- the check is through the National Criminal Background Check System. 

Under state law, the buyer must show photo identification to the seller. Then he or she must fill out three copies of DOJ-issued documents, one for the seller, one for the buyer and one that is  sent to the DOJ after the purchase. 

After the forms are completed, the seller contacts the DOJ, which charges $10 to run the check, or the National Criminal Check System. If the check turns up clear, the buyer can leave the store with the gun. 

In 2019, some 294,999 guns were purchased from a licensed dealer in Wisconsin, according to Gillian Drummond, DOJ communications director. The department does not, however, track how many guns are sold in Wisconsin from non-licensed dealers, she said in an email. 

Private gun sales work a bit differently. 

They’re not regulated by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, according to the agency’s website. Wisconsin doesn’t regulate private sales, either, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a group that advocates tighter restrictions on gun ownership. 

Private sales can also be conducted through web sites such as Armslist or even Craigslist, taking out the process of a background check completely. 

So, circling back to Taylors claim: While many gun sales require a background check, private purchases can be made with little or no scrutiny at all. 

Featured Fact-check

Adopting a dog

The process for adopting a dog in Wisconsin may vary from organization to organization, but for the Wisconsin Humane Society, dogs can be adopted in one day, said Angela Speed, vice president of communications. 

Potential owners are required to fill out an adopter profile and then meet with a counselor, who will review the adopter’s history and needs to find a compatible four-legged match, she said. The wait to get in with a counselor can vary, from 30 minutes to three hours, depending on the day and how many others are waiting. Then of course, the meeting takes time, too. 

"We talk with each potential adopter about their lifestyle and needs of the animal, the process of meeting takes an additional hour," Speed said. 

After an adopter is approved and picks a dog, they pay a fee that runs between $25 and $449. 

Speed said that sometimes denials happen, though rare.

Though the Wisconsin Humane Society doesn’t, some organizations also require home visits after a pet is adopted, Speed said. 

After a dog is brought home, an owner must also purchase a dog license for any dog over 5 months old, as required by State Statute section 174.07, and the dog must be kept up-to-date on all immunizations.  

So, in comparison to a gun purchase, adopting a dog can take longer and includes a counseling step. It also requires that a license be purchased.

Registering to cast a vote

As for registering to vote, the process can be done online, in-person at a municipal clerk’s office or at the polling location the day of the election or via mail, according to the Wisconsin Elections Commission’s website, myvote.wi.gov

If a voter is registering by mail or online, the forms must be completed and sent back to clerks 20 days before the election. For in-person registration, forms can be completed up until the Friday before the election. Voters can also register on voting day at the polls.

In order to register to vote, a person needs to have a valid Wisconsin drivers license or ID card that shows that they will be 18 by the day of the election, as well as a current address. If the address on the ID is not current, then the voter must also provide a proof of residence, such as a utility bill or bank statement. If the ID or license is expired, the last four digits of a person’s Social Security number are needed. 

If registering online, a photo must be submitted of the ID. If submitting the form via the mail or fax, the ID must be copied, printed and included. 

Though registering to vote requires an ID (or part of voter’s social security number or a utility bill), registering does not require a background check, as purchasing a gun from a licensed dealer does. 

Our ruling 

Taylor claimed that the process of obtaining a gun was easier than adopting a dog or registering to vote.

When it comes to private sales, the claim is on target -- there are virtually no checks that happen, so any process with adopting a dog or voting requires more scrutiny. But the picture is muddier when it comes to gun sales through licensed dealers. 

In those cases, purchasers face a criminal background check -- which is more than what happens when you adopt a dog or register to vote.

That leaves us with a statement that’s accurate but needs clarification or additional information.

We rate Taylor’s claim Mostly True.

Our Sources

Chris Taylor’s state representative page, "On Anniversary of Sandy Hook shooting, GOP still in death grip of NRA," published Dec. 13, 2019

PolitiFact Wisconsin, Fact-check on claim by Josh Kaul on gun purchases, posted Sept. 13, 2019

Email conversation with Gillian Drummond, communications director for the Wisconsin DOJ, April 8, 2020

Wisconsin Statutes section 175.35, https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/statutes/statutes/175/35

Dog license required by state law: https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/statutes/statutes/174/07

Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, "Background check procedures in Wisconsin," Accessed March 31, 2020

Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, "Wisconsin Gun Laws," Accessed April 2, 2020

Interview with Angela Speed, March 2, 2020, 

Wisconsin Statutes section 174.07, https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/statutes/statutes/174/07
My Vote Wisconsin, accessed April 2, 2020, https://myvote.wi.gov/en-us/

Lawmaker correct that gun access is easier than adopting a dog or registering to vote in America

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