At issue is President Obama’s continued parroting of the claim that 40 percent of all guns sold/purchased in America are done so without a background check. From the president’s “remarks on guns safety” on March 28:
Why wouldn’t we want to make it more difficult for a dangerous person to get his or her hand on a gun? Why wouldn’t we want to close the loophole that allows as many as 40 percent of all gun purchases to take place without a background check? Why wouldn’t we do that?
The 40 percent figure, however, is misleading, as Glenn Kessler at the Washington Post explains:
When we first looked at this issue, we noted that congressional foes of gun control had made it difficult for the federal government to conduct research on guns. But, as shown by the Washington Post survey of Maryland gun buyers, there is nothing stopping private pollsters from producing a more up-to-date survey.
In the meantime, 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.
Two months ago, we were willing to cut the White House some slack, given the paucity of recent data. But the president’s failure to acknowledge the significant questions about these old data, or his slippery phrasing, leaves us little choice but to downgrade this claim to Three Pinocchios.