Instead of the old lie, they’re pushing a new probable falsehood.
The share of Americans who obtained a gun without first undergoing a background check is dramatically lower than previous estimates, researchers at Harvard and Northeastern universities have determined. The finding reshapes one of the most prominent assumptions of the US gun control debate.
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 Gun rights activists had decried that estimate as outdated and inaccurate.
The new survey, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that the current proportion of gun sales conducted without a background check is about half of the figure cited by prominent Democratic gun control advocates, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
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.
The data supporting their claim that 22% of gun purchases occur without background checks is self-reported. Any reasonable person would therefore be skeptical that a new lie is merely replacing an old one.