3 Pinocchios: Washington Post calls President Obama a liar on background check %


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hso
April 2, 2013, 10:43 AM
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/post/obamas-continued-use-of-the-claim-that-40-percent-of-gun-sales-lack-background-checks/2013/04/01/002e06ce-9b0f-11e2-a941-a19bce7af755_blog.html


The Police Foundation report did not break out gun purchases, so in January we asked Ludwig to rerun the data, just looking at guns purchased in the secondary market. The result, depending on the definition, was 14 percent to 22 percent. That's at least half the percentage repeatedly cited by Obama.

Since our initial report on this statistic appeared, The Washington Post in February included a question on background checks on a survey of Maryland residents, asking whether they went through a background check during a gun purchase in the past 10 years. The result? Twenty-one percent say they did not.

Coincidentally or not, 21 percent falls within the 14-to-22 percent range for gun purchases without background checks in the 1994 survey. (Note: Because so few Marylanders buy guns, there is a large potential margin of error with this result.)

A White House spokesman declined to comment on why the president keeps using the “up to 40 percent” statistic.



The Pinocchio Test

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.

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