2/01/2013

The 40 percent background check claim as used during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun control this week

Some of the times the claim that 40 percent of gun sales were made without background checks at the hearing this week:
Chief James Johnson, police chief of the Baltimore County Police Department: . . . Up to 40 percent of firearm transactions occur through private individuals rather than licensed gun dealers. Allowing 40 percent of those acquiring to bypass checks is like allowing 40 percent of passengers to board a plane without going through security. . . . 
J. JOHNSON: The background procedures in this nation are seriously in need of -- of modification. Again, 40 percent of those acquiring firearms tried to do it outside that background procedure. . . . 
SCHUMER:  Current estimates show because of these loopholes 48 percent of gun sales are made without a background check. . . . 
SCHUMER: Right. And does it make any sense to exclude the same people who sell them in a gun shop or others, to go to a gun show, and now have any background check at all?J. JOHNSON: It’s absolutely insane. Again, it’s like letting 40 percent of people just pass a TSA checkpoint at an airport. It’s not an inconvenience. . . . 
DURBIN:  . . . But we know now that 40 percent of the sales are not going through the background checks. That’s a huge problem. . . . 
KLOBUCHAR: And is it true that about 40 percent of gun sales take place at the gun shows? 
J. JOHNSON: Statistics reveal that 40 percent of gun sales take place at gun shows and other non-licensed dealer sales arrangements. Nearly 6.6 million guns through that process a year. . . . 
J. JOHNSON: Well, certainly when a weapon is purchased through a licensed federal dealer, they undergo a background check. But, as we’ve said many times here today 40 percent of these guns are being sold outside that process. This is not unreasonable. . . . . 
CRUZ: . . . And indeed, the statistic of 40 percent has been bandied about. Now, that statistic is unfortunately based on a study that occurred before the background check went into effect. And so it is a highly dubious figure. . . . 
The related claim about background checks preventing prohibited persons from getting a gun were also very common.
SCHUMER:  . . . . Since 1999, the federal background check system has blocked 1.7 million prohibited purchasers from buying firearms at federally licensed dealers.Yes, we should prosecute them. But the number one goal is to prevent a felon from getting a gun in the first place. That’s what this did 1.7 million times. . . .  
SCHUMER:  Now, I’d like to ask Chief Johnson a question or two about those checks. Do you agree with the logic that even -- you know, that we should prosecute people who illegally try to buy guns, but even without that, the law has done a whole lot of good because people who are felons or adjudicated mentally ill, millions have been stopped from buying guns and getting guns? 
J. JOHNSON: Yes, since 1994 to 2009, the record is very clear. It is a fact that nearly 2 million prohibited purchases were stopped. God only knows what they would have done with those weapons had it not been for that particular law. . . . 
LEAHY: . . . Nearly 2 million convicted criminals and other dangerous people have tried to buy firearms and (inaudible), as Chief Johnson said, were prevented. . . .

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