President Obama still has not submitted a budget, but between his vacations he is now back out campaigning for his gun control ideas. During remarks he delivered moments ago, the president took a harsh, lecturing tone as he once again claimed that 40% of all gun purchases in America take place without any background check.
Everyone who purchases a firearm in a retail or licensed resale setting must undergo a background check. This is true whether the purchase is made in a brick and mortar store, at a gun show, or via a licensed online gun retailer.
The president’s claim that 40% of all gun sales fall outside the national background check system is based on a single survey of 251 people done two decades ago. The federal background check system did not even become mandatory until 1994.
John Fund shot down the 40% statistic back in January.
If that alone didn’t make the number invalid, the federal survey simply asked buyers if they thought they were buying from a licensed firearms dealer. While all Federal Firearm Licensees do background checks, only those perceived as being FFLs were counted. Yet, there is much evidence that survey respondents who went to the smallest FFLs, especially the “kitchen table” types, had no idea that the dealer was actually “licensed.” Many buyers seemed to think that only “brick and mortar” stores were licensed dealers, and so the survey underestimating the number of sales covered by the checks.
Another reason for the high number is that it includes guns transferred as inheritances or as gifts from family members. Even President Obama’s background proposal excludes almost all of those transfers.
If you look at guns that were bought, traded, borrowed, rented, issued as a requirement of the job, or won through raffles, 85 percent went through Federal Firearm Licensees and would have been subject to a background check. Only 15 percent would have been transferred without a background check.
Economist John Lott, the author of several landmark studies on the real-world impact of gun control, has concluded that if you take out transfers of guns either between FFLs or between family members, the remaining number of transfers falls to about 10 percent. Those were the numbers from two decades ago. “We don’t know the precise number today, but it is hard to believe that it is above single digits,” he told me.
For the president and his allies to continue to use the 40% statistic is dishonest. That statistic is two decades old and is invalid. Then, there is the problem of the president’s tone and logic. No one who does not already agree with him is likely to respond favorably to being lectured and bullied as if we are all his children. We’re not.
The president also trotted out, again, the line that “if it only saves one life,” the we must do what he says on gun control. If it only saves one life, we should ban thousands of things we use in our everyday lives, including hammers, cars, electricity, and even water, all of which account for more deaths every year than “assault” weapons. “If it only saves one life” is not an argument, it’s a childish pout. In fact, based on the bloodbath currently underway in Chicago, it could be argued that if it only saves one life, gun control itself should be abolished.