1/26/2013

Can anyone really take Media Matters seriously?: Their defense of the claim that 40 percent of guns are sold without background checks

Media Matters is at it again, this time they are attacking an op-ed that I had at National Review and they defend the claim that 40 percent of guns are sold without background checks.  In their defense, they point to Politifact as saying that the "40 percent" statistic is "Mostly True."  Yet, Media Matters can't even get that quite right as Politifact says that the claim is "half true."   Of course, Politifact doesn't understand the issues being debated.  Glenn Kessler at the Washington Post is no where as critical as I would like, but he still gives Obama's use of the "40 percent" claim three out of a possible four Pinocchios.  Kessler notes:
we have documented that (a) the survey numbers are about two decades old, so they include purchases that predate any background checks; (b) the survey sample is rather small; and (c) the results are significantly different when adjusted for “purchases” or “sales” — the phrasing used by the president. . . .  
The key point though is that even the 36 percent number in the original study that Obama cites (not the 40 percent that he rounds it up to) was for all transfers, not just guns sold.  

UPDATE:  Here is the way I described this in April 9, 2013:
Start with the 40 percent figure. That number comes from a very small study covering purchases during 1991 to 1994. Not only is that two decades-old data, but it covered sales before the federal Brady Act took effect on February 28, 1994. The act required federally licensed dealers to perform background checks. 
And what's more, Mr. Obama conveniently forgets that the researchers gave this number (well, actually 36%, not his rounding up to 40%) for all transfers, not just for guns sold. Most significantly, the vast majority of these transfers involved within-family inheritances and gifts. 
Counting only guns that were sold gives a very different perspective, with only 14 percent not actually going through federally licensed dealers. But even that is much too high as there were biases in the survey. For example, two-thirds of federally licensed dealers at the time were so-called “kitchen table” dealers who sold gun out of their homes and most buyers surveyed were likely unaware these individuals were indeed licensed. 
By the way, that survey also found that all gun-show sales went through federally licensed dealers. If President Obama really trusts the study, he should stop raging about the “gun show loophole.” . . .
I have made similar points earlier, such as the article that Media Matters attacks in National Review.


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