Almost from the moment he walked into the Oval Office, Barack Obama has had a serious lying problem when it comes to firearms.
The 44th president has a near pathological predilection for using defective, invalid, and flat-out dishonest statistics in his quest to restrict the 2nd Amendment rights of American citizens, a fact first pointed out here at PJ Media in the summer of 2009.
At that time, the president, then-Secretary of State of State Hillary Clinton, and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder were heavily invested in promoting the deceptive theory that the supermajority of firearms being used by Mexican drug cartels were being purchased at gun stores in the United States and shipped over the border. The facts, however, didn’t come close to supporting the administration’s preposterous claim.
The automatic weapons being used by cartel gunmen and recovered at crime scenes — selective-fire AK-pattern assault rifles, M16 and M4 selective-fire assault rifles, hand grenades, 40mm grenade launchers, and more than a few heavy machine guns — are heavily regulated in the United States, and have been since the National Firearms Act was passed in 1934.
Purchasing such firearms requires extensive and in-depth background checks, registration, finger-printing, a $200 tax stamp, and other onerous regulations. This has kept the number of these so-called “NFA” weapons to just roughly 250,000 in the United States. The Hughes Amendment tacked on to a federal bill in the mid 1980s means that no new NFA selective-fire weapons or machine guns have been released to the qualified general public for 27 years. The result is that these firearms are now cost-prohibitive collectors’ items, costing tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. The president was attempting to sell the absurd claim that a civilian M16 worth $20,000 was being used once and discarded, when the firearms recovered were those stolen or sold by corrupt Mexican officials to the cartels, along with AK-47 and AKM assault rifles that can be picked up around the world for as low as $25 and moved in the same smuggling routes used by the cartels to move their drugs.
The 90-percent lie was gutted by officials of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in sworn testimony before Congress.
The myth that legal guns sales in the United States are responsible for Mexican drug cartel violence took another serious blow last week when an ATF official testified in Congress that only eight percent of weapons recovered in Mexico came through licensed U.S. gun dealers.
This figure is far lower than the 90 percent claim made previously as an appeal to reinstate ineffective gun laws that expired in 2004. The claim — still active among the less informed or serially dishonest — officially became myth during congressional testimony last week when Bill McMahon, deputy assistant director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, revealed the eight percent figure, how it was calculated, and where the 90 percent myth arose from.
Of the 100,000 weapons recovered by Mexican authorities, only 18,000 were determined to have been manufactured, sold, or imported from the United States, and of those 18,000, just 7,900 came from sales by licensed gun dealers.
Despite being called out on these lies, both the administration and the mainstream media continued to propagate the 90-percent lie, apparently attempting to embed the false statistics in the public consciousness. It was only later that we discovered that this lie was being sold by the Obama administration at the same time as Operation Fast and Furious was smuggling more than 2,500 firearms to drug cartels.
The same Obama administration dynamic that created the 90-percent lie is repeating in what is easily titled the “40-percent lie,” a false claim made by the president that 40 percent of the gun transfers in the nation are conducted without a background check. The president and many members of the mainstream media have uncritically repeated this claim to bolster support for the Senate’s attempt to pass a law for universal background checks that the National Rifle Association views as a gun-registration scheme.
The problem is that claim isn’t supported by facts, as even the Washington Post was forced to admit:
There are two key problems with the president’s use of this statistic: The numbers are about two decades old, yet he acts as if they are fresh, and he refers to “purchases” or “sales” when in fact the original report concerned “gun acquisitions” and “transactions.” Those are much broader categories of data.
This study was based on data collected from a survey in 1994, the same year that the Brady Act requirements for background checks came into effect. In fact, the questions concerned purchases in 1993 and 1994, and the Brady Act went into effect in early 1994 — meaning that some, if not many, of the guns were bought in a pre-Brady environment.
Digging deeper, we found that the survey sample was just 251 people. (The survey was done by telephone, using a random-digit-dial method, with a response rate of 50 percent.) With this sample size, the 95 percent confidence interval will be plus or minus six percentage points.
The Police Foundation report did not break out gun purchases, so in January we asked Ludwig to rerun the data, just looking at guns purchased in the secondary market. The result, depending on the definition, was 14 percent to 22 percent. That’s at least half the percentage repeatedly cited by Obama. (In a recent article for National Review, Cook and Ludwig wrote “we don’t know the current percentage — nor does anyone else.” But they say if the percentage is lower it actually strengthens the case for expanding background checks because it would be less expensive to implement.) Since our initial report on this statistic appeared, The Washington Post in February included a question on background checks on a survey of Maryland residents, asking whether they went through a background check during a gun purchase in the past 10 years. The result? Twenty-one percent say they did not.
Coincidentally or not, 21 percent falls within the 14-to-22 percent range for gun purchases without background checks in the 1994 survey.
Obama is making his claim using a statistically insignificant sample size, with data nearly 20 years old, collected under a different set of laws than those we’ve been operating under since Brady made NICS background checks the law of the land. It is irrelevant, invalid data, intentionally misrepresented as being current and relevant.
In short, the president has been caught in yet another lie attempting to support controversial firearms legislation that he would like to see passed. Barack Obama demanded a “national conversation” about gun control.
Then he filled it with lies.