Fact Check–Obama: 40% of All Gun Sales Private?

Fact Check–Obama: 40% of All Gun Sales Private?

While presenting a litany of gun control measures for Congress to consider, President Obama suggested that “40% of all gun purchases are conducted without a background check.”

In other words, 40% of gun sales are private.

While he was still speaking, one of my friends texted me and asked: “How does Obama know how many guns are sold privately? The fact that it’s ‘private’ means it’s not public.”

So I started looking through databases for references to this figure, and I soon found myself reading a 2011 study by NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg titled, “Point, Click, Fire: An Investigation Into Illegal Online Gun Sales.” 

According to the study, “40% of guns are sold through private sellers.” Moreover, the study claims that “these sales–which take place in many venues, including gun shows and, increasingly, on the internet… fuel the black market for illegal guns.”

Many parts of this assertion are factually flawed or, at the least, very misleading.

First off, the figure of 40% doesn’t represent new guns but guns already in circulation, which are being resold on a secondary basis. The intimation that 40% of new guns are being sold illegally is simply myth-making at best, lying at worst.

What’s really happening is that people who think like Bloomberg and Obama are guessing that a certain percentage of firearms in the hands of Americans have no paperwork on them because their original sale predates background checks. Thus, their goal is to seal off avenues for private sales in order to force Americans to enter those guns into the system. 

As for selling guns on the Internet to avoid background checks, that’s another stretch. If a citizen buys a gun from a store via the internet, that gun has to be shipped from a dealer with an Federal Firearms License (FFL) to another dealer with a FFL. 

In other words, if a resident of Denver bought a gun from a store in Tampa, the FFL in Tampa would send the gun to an FFL in Denver. Once it arrived, the buyer would pay a fee for shipping, taxes on the gun, as well as any mark-up for services. He would also have to submit to a back-ground check just as if he had bought the gun off a shelf in Denver.

The idea that 40% of gun sales are private is meant to confuse Americans and make them think there is a breakdown in the system somewhere. But there’s not. 


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