There were so many lies in Vice President Kamala Harris’ and President Joe Biden’s presentations on guns Thursday that it is hard to know where to start. One thing is certain, though: The media fact-checkers won’t question their claims. Here are just a few of the false ones:
The background check system “has kept more than 3 million firearms out of the hands of dangerous people.
Since the Brady background checks began in 1994, there have been 3.5 million initial denials. However, it is one thing to stop a felon from buying a gun. It is quite another to stop a law-abiding citizen from buying a gun just because his or her name is similar to a felon’s. In 2017, for example, there were 112,000 initial denials for supposedly attempted prohibited purchases, but just 12 federal prosecutions by June 2018. The reason is that these weren’t real cases.
The background check system is a mess, with the mistakes primarily born by minorities through no fault of their own. The error rate for black males is three times their share of the population.
The Charleston Loophole
Biden says that if there had only been more than three days to check Dylann Roof’s background, Roof would have been stopped from buying a gun, thereby preventing the horrible Charleston, S.C., church shooting. But that is a lie. You can’t buy a gun if you have a felony or certain misdemeanor convictions, or if you are arrested but not yet convicted of a crime with a possible prison sentence of at least one year. Since Roof’s arrest was for a misdemeanor drug offense, which had a maximum possible sentence of six months, a longer waiting period would not have blocked his gun purchase.
If Democrats want to change the law so that any misdemeanor arrest prevents gun purchases, this would at least be related to the Charleston case. But Democrats want to impose up to a 30-day waiting period without explicitly stating that is their real aim. If they want a long waiting period, they should make a case for why this would somehow be desirable. Instead, Democrats pretend that their proposal would have stopped the Charleston shooting when their actual goal is to obtain a long waiting period.
Biden said that gunmakers are “exempt from being sued. … This is the only outfit that is exempt from being sued.”
The president claims this is the top change he wants. In fact, however, if gunmakers make defective guns, you can sue them. Likewise, if they break the law (e.g., sell a firearm without a background check), you can sue them. Biden’s proposal is very different from current law. He wants gun manufacturers held civilly liable for misuse of guns they sell. This would allow lawsuits against manufacturers and sellers whenever a crime, accident, or suicide occurs with a gun. The straightforward result would be to put gunmakers out of business.
Imagine what would happen to the car industry if similar rules were applied. The National Safety Council estimates that 39,404 Americans died and 4.5 million were injured from car accidents in 2018. Cars are also frequently used to commit crimes.
“The vast majority of Americans believe there should be [universal] background checks.”
Gun control advocates frequently claim that over 90% of Americans support background checks for private transfers of guns. Yet, the last time such laws were proposed to voters, they rejected them. When Michael Bloomberg got universal background check initiatives onto Maine and Nevada’s ballots, for example, he lost in Maine by four percentage points and won in Nevada by just 0.8 percentage points.
This tough sledding wasn’t for lack of money. In Maine, Bloomberg outspent his opponents by over six times. In Nevada, he spent an incredible $35.30 per vote — three times more than his opponents. If over 90% of Americans supported these laws, this type of spending would be unnecessary.
No sudden change in gun control laws caused last year’s spike in homicides. Instead, the real explanation is simple, and something Biden refused to consider: prisons released a large number of inmates because of COVID-19, politicians ordered police to stand down, police department budgets were cut, and prosecutors refused to prosecute criminals.
In describing mass public shootings, Biden said that gun violence in this country is an “international embarrassment.”
The president might not follow international news closely, but mass public shootings are much more common and deadly in the rest of the world than they are in the United States. The U.S. contains 4.6% of the world’s population, yet accounts for only 1% of the world’s shooters. Over the last decade, Europe has experienced deadlier mass public shootings than any of those in the U.S. — ever. In November 2015, for example, 130 people were shot to death at a concert in Paris. In July 2011, 67 people were shot to death in Norway. European countries such as France, Finland, Norway, and a number of Eastern European countries have higher per capita death rates from mass public shootings than the United States does. Yet, all of these countries have stricter gun control laws than we do.
These are just a few of the false claims made on Thursday. No, the rules for buying guns at gun shows are no different than buying them anywhere else. And no, when guns are unavailable neither the suicides nor the suicide attempts drop. Unfortunately, the liberal fact-checkers—as usual—are nowhere to be found.
Lott is the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and the author most recently of “Gun Control Myths.” Until last month, Lott was the senior adviser for research and statistics at the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Policy.
Thomas Massie is a Republican member of the House who has represented Kentucky’s 4th Congressional District since 2012.