Accuracy in Media

Hillary Rodham Clinton

“Forty percent of guns are sold at gun shows, online sales.”

–Former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton, remarks on gun violence at Manchester Community College, N.H., Oct. 5, 2015

Clinton made her statement during a Town Hall meeting, using the recent shootings in Oregon and South Carolina to decry what she called the “gun show loophole” that permits “person-to-person” sales by people who are not engaged in the business of selling firearms.

The problem, as Kessler points out, is that the 40 percent figure is out of date and includes all gun transactions, not just sales:

So where does the 40 percent figure come from? It is derived from studies that were based on data collected from a survey in 1994, the same year that the Brady Act requirements for background checks came into effect. In fact, the questions concerned purchases dating as far back as 1991, and the Brady Act went into effect in early 1994 — meaning that some, if not many, of the guns were bought in a pre-Brady environment.

The survey sample was relatively small — just 251 people. (The survey was done by telephone, using a random-digit-dial method, with a response rate of 50 percent.) With this sample size, the 95 percent confidence interval will be plus or minus six percentage points.

The analysis concluded that 35.7 percent of respondents indicated they did not receive the gun from a licensed firearms dealer. Rounding up gets you to 40 percent, although the survey sample is so small it could also be rounded down to 30 percent.

Moreover, when gifts, inheritances and prizes are added in, then the number shrinks to 26.4 percent. (The survey showed that nearly 23.8 percent of the people surveyed obtained their gun either as a gift or inherited it, and about half of them believed a licensed firearms dealer was the source.)

The original report carefully uses terms such as “acquisitions” and “transactions,” which included trades, gifts and the like. This subtlety is lost on many politicians such as Clinton, who referred to “sales.”

Why is it important to make a distinction between purchases and transactions? For one thing, the failed Senate compromise bill that would have required background checks for gun shows and Internet sales specifically made an exception for gifts (and even sales) among family members and neighbors. Including the data on such transactions can change the results.

That change in results would give Clinton far less ammunition to use against the NRA and other pro-gun groups, as it would show that non-background check sales at gun shows aren’t nearly as high as she has been claiming, which virtually destroys her plea for stricter gun control measures.

The Pinocchio Test

By any reasonable measure, Clinton’s claim that 40 percent of guns are sold at gun shows or over the Internet — and thus evade background checks through a loophole — does not stand up to scrutiny.

As we demonstrated, the 40-percent figure, even if confirmed in a new survey, refers to all gun transactions, not just gun sales. A large percentage of the gun transactions not covered by background checks are family and friend transactions – which would have been exempt from the universal background checks pushed by Democrats. Indeed, many gun-show sales are made by licensed firearm dealers — and 17 states even have that requirement, at least for handguns.

Clinton earns Three Pinocchios.

This is the third time in the last few months that Clinton has earned three Pinocchios from The Fact Checker, which only underscores her struggle to tell the  truth.





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