Stat on Private Gun Sales May Not Be Entirely Accurate - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Frequently Quoted Stat on Private Gun Sales May Not be Entirely Accurate

Posted: Updated:

WASHINGTON (AP)- Even in its heyday, the statistic wasn't the kind you could count on.
    
A finding that 30 percent to 40 percent of guns changed hands outside the background-check system was, at best, a rough guide post in the murky gun-ownership universe.
    
At least it was fresh.
    
Now it's old and surely very tired. But President Barack Obama, some Democratic lawmakers, a coalition of mayors and others arguing for expanded background checks won't let that statistic rest in peace.
    
To hear them talk, you'd think it was born yesterday, rather than 20 years ago.
    
OBAMA, on Jan. 16: "It's time for Congress to require a universal background check for anyone trying to buy a gun. The law already requires licensed gun dealers to run background checks.... But it's hard to enforce that law when as many as 40 percent of all gun purchases are conducted without a background check."
    
MAYORS AGAINST ILLEGAL GUNS, a coalition favoring tighter gun controls, on Tuesday: "Around 40 percent of U.S. gun transfers are conducted by unlicensed 'private sellers' who are not required to conduct a federal check, and who often do business at gun shows and on the Internet."
    
NEW YORK MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, Dec. 17: "Congress should pass the Fix Gun Checks Act, which would close the 'private sale loophole' that allows more than 40 percent of gun sales to go through without a background check."
    
REP. DAVID CICILLINE, D-R.I., Jan. 26: "More than 40 percent of sales nationally are made without background checks."
    
VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN, Jan. 17: "Because of the lack of the ability of federal agencies to be able to even keep records, we can't say with absolute certainty what I'm about to say is correct. But the consensus is about 40 percent of the people who buy guns today do so outside the ... background check system."
    
THE FACTS:
    
Biden stands alone here in acknowledging he may be saying something that isn't right.
    
A 1996 law pushed by the gun-rights lobby closed the spigot on federal gun research, leaving scholars, private groups and states to pick up some pieces. Only now, under a recent order by Obama, can federally financed research resume.
    
So it's no wonder policymakers are grasping at shreds of moldy data. But they're not owning up to the true vintage of their information or the shortcomings that made it questionable at the time.
    
The claims that gun sales made without background checks comprise "more than," ''as many as," ''nearly" or "about" 40 percent of all gun sales are rooted in a poll looking broadly at gun ownership in America. Sponsored by the Justice Department through a grant to the Police Foundation, the poll's principal relevance today is as a snapshot of the way things were when it was taken, namely 1994.
    
The research reported on the nature of gun acquisitions made in 1993 and 1994, asking people who had obtained guns then where the guns had come from and whether they thought the source was a federally licensed dealer. Transactions through licensed dealers were considered covered by the background check system, which was just then coming into effect.
    
Although the survey interviewed more than 2,500 Americans, just 251 had acquired guns during that time frame, a small sampling from which to make a general conclusion.
    
In all, 64 percent of those respondents reported acquiring a gun from a source they thought to be a licensed dealer, suggesting that 36 percent of gun acquisitions were in the secondary and unregulated market.
    
But the study's researchers found considerable ambiguity and some apparent contradictions in the responses. The poll relied, in part, on people's best guess about whether a seller was licensed.
    
With a clear picture eluding them, the researchers estimated 30 percent to 40 percent of the acquisitions were off the books and would not have been subjected to a background check.
    
Only 4 percent of gun sales were thought to have come through gun shows or flea markets. That's just a corner of the market, but a main concern today for those who want to expand background checks to close the "gun-show loophole," as Obama's proposals would do.
    
More than 17 percent of guns acquired in 1993 and 1994 came from a family member, according to the poll. This source of weapons would remain largely unregulated in pending Senate legislation calling for expanded checks.
    
Discounting family acquisitions, the percentage of gun transactions eluding background checks would be considerably less.
    
In contending that 40 percent of gun transfers are conducted by private sellers, often "at gun shows and on the Internet," the mayors stretched a thin claim even thinner in their statement Tuesday.
    
They cited the same old study as everyone else, one done well before the spread of online commerce. The study considered purchases by mail order, 3 percent of reported gun acquisitions, but makes no mention of online transactions.
   
    
AP Polling Director Jennifer Agiesta and Associated Press writer Alan Fram contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • Delmarvawide NewsDelmarvawide NewsMore>>

  • Updated: Fire Ruins Historical Hebron Church

    Updated: Fire Ruins Historical Hebron Church

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 3:35 PM EDT2014-07-22 19:35:31 GMT
    Fire has destroyed the historical St. Paul's Episcopal Church located on westbound Route 50 in Hebron.More
    Authorities are investigating a Tuesday fire that destroyed the historical St. Paul's Episcopal Church at the corner of Memory Gardens Lane and Route 50 in Hebron, Md. Preliminary damage is estimated at approximately $500,000.More
  • Updated: Md. Gun Law Debated in Federal Court

    Updated: Md. Gun Law Debated in Federal Court

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 3:33 PM EDT2014-07-22 19:33:00 GMT
    Lawyers for the state of Maryland asked a federal judge on Tuesday to dismiss a lawsuit seeking to overturn parts of a sweeping gun-control law, but attorneys leading the challenge contend parts of the law violate Second Amendment rights.More
    Lawyers for the state of Maryland asked a federal judge on Tuesday to dismiss a lawsuit seeking to overturn parts of a sweeping gun-control law, but attorneys leading the challenge contend parts of the law violate Second Amendment rights.More
  • Suspect Sought in Delmar Armed Robbery

    Suspect Sought in Delmar Armed Robbery

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 2:27 PM EDT2014-07-22 18:27:07 GMT
    Delmar Police were called to a Gordy Tiger Mart after a woman held up the store at gunpoint.More
    Delmar police are looking for a suspect wanted for holding up a Gordy Tiger Mart late Monday night.More
  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Updated: Fire Ruins Historical Hebron Church

    Updated: Fire Ruins Historical Hebron Church

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 3:35 PM EDT2014-07-22 19:35:31 GMT
    Fire has destroyed the historical St. Paul's Episcopal Church located on westbound Route 50 in Hebron.More
    Authorities are investigating a Tuesday fire that destroyed the historical St. Paul's Episcopal Church at the corner of Memory Gardens Lane and Route 50 in Hebron, Md. Preliminary damage is estimated at approximately $500,000.More
  • Two Killed in Del. Crash

    Two Killed in Del. Crash

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 11:45 AM EDT2014-07-22 15:45:19 GMT
    Delaware State Police say two Dover men were killed Monday night after the tow truck they were riding in went off the road and crashed into a telephone pole near Little Creek.More
    Delaware State Police say two Dover men were killed Monday night after the tow truck they were riding in went off the road and crashed into a telephone pole near Little Creek. More
  • Federal Appeals Court Deals Blow to Health Law

    Federal Appeals Court Deals Blow to Health Law

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 11:46 AM EDT2014-07-22 15:46:35 GMT
    A federal appeals court has delivered a serious setback to President Barack Obama's health care law, potentially derailing subsidies for many low- and middle-income people who have bought policies.More
    A federal appeals court has delivered a serious setback to President Barack Obama's health care law, potentially derailing subsidies for many low- and middle-income people who have bought policies.More
Powered by WorldNow

All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Worldnow and WBOC. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service