The election of Donald Trump has taken all of the wind out gun control advocates’ sails. New freedoms, like national concealed carry reciprocity and wider access to suppressors, seem assured under Trump’s incoming administration. And now it seems that the evidence politicians have been basing some of their most heated arguments on is false, and has been for more than 20 years.
Anyone buying a firearm from a licensed gun dealer has to fill out form 4473, a list of questions about the buyer that provides information used for a federal background check. Gun control advocates often point to “loopholes” such as private sales that happen without this background check.
The Obama administration even pushed for regulations that would require all private sales and sales at regional gun shows to be brokered by a licensed dealer who would conduct these background checks. The need, they implied, was dire as more than 40% of sales, annually, occurred without the background check.
A new report suggests that percentage is wildly exaggerated.
Bearingarms.com writes that the numbers used by politicians like Obama and Hillary Clinton are based on decades old data. “After 22 years, they’re finally admitting that their statistically-invalid and event-limited figure—using information prior to the creation of the National InstaCheck System (NICS) implemented by all gun dealers nationwide in 1998—was dishonest all along.”
The report, which compiles the findings of researchers at Harvard and Northeastern University, sets the record straight. It was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
The Guardian has picked up the story (though it is noticeably absent from outlets like CNN).
“Just 22% of current gun owners who acquired a firearm within the past two years did so without a background check, according to a new national survey by public health researchers at Harvard and Northeastern universities shared in advance with the Trace and the Guardian.”
“For years, politicians and researchers have estimated that as many as 40% of gun transfers are conducted without a background check – a statistic based on an extrapolation from a 1994 survey. Gun rights activists had decried that estimate as outdated and inaccurate.”
“[…]It also found that gun owners in states that require background checks on all private gun sales were much less likely to report acquiring a gun without a background check than those in states with no universal background check law – a potential indication that efforts to boost screenings at the local level are succeeding, even in the absence of federal legislation.”
Guns are still ending up in the wrong hands, and being sold on the black-market, but the failure of background checks doesn’t appear to be as significant as politicians claim. So, then, what is to be done?