Fact Check: Which Key Obama Gun Stat Are Critics Claiming Isnt Quite Accurate?

President Barack Obama (Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

Earlier this month, TheBlaze noted that there’s a controversial statistic being touted by prominent Democrats and others who want universal background checks to become the law of the land.

The claim? That 40 percent of all gun sales in the U.S. have taken place without background checks.

As the AP has extensively reported, the statistic is nearly 20-years-old and, in addition to being antiquated, it was purportedly also an educated guess when it was originally touted.

But that hasn’t stopped President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and others from continuing to use it in driving home the alleged need for background checks.

It seems others, though, have joined the AP in decrying — or, at the least, calling into question — the statistic’s merits. As Fox News reported this morning, other journalistic enterprises have now debunked and fact-checked the claim:

The oft-cited figure, it turns out, was pulled from a 1997 study done by the National Institute of Justice. In the study, researchers estimated about 40 percent of all firearm sales took place through people other than licensed gun dealers. The conclusion was based on data from a 1994 survey of 2,568 households. Of those, only 251 people answered the question about where they got their guns.

PolitiFact tracked down the co-author of the study, Duke University professor Philip Cook, and asked him if he thought the 40 percent estimate is accurate.

“The answer is I have no idea,” Cook reportedly told PolitiFact. “This survey was done almost 20 years ago.”

Earlier in March, The AP offered more about the study, noting:

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.

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. With a clear picture eluding them, they 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 – a corner of the market that is a top 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 – a source of weapons that would remain largely unregulated in pending Senate legislation calling for expanded checks.

But some, like Mediaite’s Tommy Christopher, have said that some critics simply aren’t correct in their assertion that Obama and other politicians are definitively wrong in using the statistic.

Christopher recently wrote the following about the Washington Post’s assessment (the outlet also concluded that Obama may be misusing the statistic):

Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler really wants President Obama to be wrong, as his history of contortions to that effect demonstrate. To that end, Kessler has published the third in a trilogy of analyses which have progressively moved the President’s claim, that “as many as 40 percent of all gun purchases to take place without a background check,” from zero to three Pinocchios. While slagging the President may be good for business, the effect of Kessler’s false ruling is to undermine legitimate efforts to keep the public safe, and to obscure the real enemy of reliable data on gun violence.

The specific claims that Kessler evaluates are the President’s March 28 declaration, in a speech, that “as many as 40 percent of all gun purchases to take place without a background check,” and a later tweet that read “FACT: Nearly 40% of all gun sales don’t require a background check under current law. #DemandAction”

Obama has been invoking the statistic since at least January. Following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, the president doubled down on the statistic.

“It’s time for Congress to require a universal background check for anyone trying to buy a gun,” Obama said in a Jan. 16 speech. “The law already requires licensed gun dealers to run background checks, and over the last 14 years that’s kept 1.5 million of the wrong people from getting their hands on a gun, but it’s hard to enforce that law when as many as 40 percent of all gun purchases are conducted without a background check.”

You can read more about Obama’s alleged misuse of the statistic — and the debate surrounding it — at Fox News (also, be sure to read TheBlaze’s previous coverage here).

Other Must-Read Articles: