President Joe Biden has spent significant political capital blaming the nation’s surging crime rate on legal gun sales and demanding further encroachments on the constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms.
To gin up support for his radical gun control agenda, Biden has told a series of fibs, falsehoods, and exaggerations. Here is a guide to understanding his most common gun control myths.
Is it true that gun shows don’t require background checks?
“Most people don’t know: If you walk into a store and you buy a gun, you have a background check. But you go to a gun show, you can buy whatever you want and no background check,” Biden said on April 8.
But Joe Biden shouldn’t know this, either, because it’s false. Federal law requires any gun seller who holds a Federal Firearms License (FFL) to conduct a background check on the would-be buyer before completing the purchase, regardless of where the sale takes place. That includes gun shows.
Private individuals may sell firearms to people who live in their own state without a background check — but FFL holders may also “facilitate” private sales by performing background checks, if one of the parties requests it. A survey funded by a gun control organization found that nearly 80% of all gun sales in the previous year included a background check.
Aside from federal mandates, 16 states and the District of Columbia require background checks on all firearms sales as of this writing, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
What is the truth about the ‘Charleston loophole’?
Biden cited another frequent gun ownership myth on April 8, according to the White House transcript: the co-called Charleston loophole. “If the FBI hasn’t com- — didn’t complete the background check within three days — There’s a process. If wasn’t done in three days, according to Charleston loophole, you get to buy the gun. [The Charleston shooter] bought the gun and killed a hell of a lot of innocent people.”
Under federal law, FBI background checks must be completed within three days; if they are not, the seller may (but does not have to) proceed with the sale. But the Charleston church shooter procured a weapon despite the fact that he had been listed (erroneously) as a felony drug user, something not uncovered for months after the purchase. Rather than exposing the incompetence of the federal bureaucracy, gun control advocates say this proves the federal government should be given more authority over law-abiding citizens’ self-defense choices. And rather than tell federal employees to speed the process up, a proposal from Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) would extend the period to 10 days.
In reality, the background check would likely not have prevented the purchase of the firearm used in the Charleston shooting, because the shooter had been charged with a misdemeanor, not a felony. Whether drug possession would have been enough to keep a gun out of his hands is legally ambiguous.
Biden also ignores that a sale does not end the federal government’s jurisdiction over firearms. If the federal government finds an applicant violated its background criteria after the three-day window, the ATF can issue a retrieval order authorizing federal agents to stop the sale — or remove the firearm from its owner’s home. The ATF issued 4,000 gun retrieval orders in 2016 alone. Agents successfully retrieve approximately 93% of all firearms involved in such transactions.
Do gun manufacturers have ‘absolute immunity’ from lawsuits?
In 2020, candidate Biden sought to contrast himself with the surging campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) by highlighting Sanders’ onetime pro-gun voting record. During a Democratic presidential primary debate last February 25, Biden said Sanders “and others have in fact also gave in to the gun manufacturers’ absolute immunity. Imagine if I stood here and said we give immunity to drug companies, we give immunity to tobacco companies. That has caused carnage on our streets.”
The firearms industry does not have absolute immunity from all lawsuits. Biden referred to Sanders’ yea vote on the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), which prevents lawyers from filing ludicrous nuisance lawsuits against the gun manufacturer or seller because their product was used illegally in a shooting. But the PLCAA still allows firearms companies to be sued for six infractions:
- if an injury occurred due to a defective product. (For instance, Sig Sauer has been sued multiple times over injuries caused by an allegedly defective trigger in the P320 handgun);
- if the seller or manufacturer is guilty of a breach of warranty or contract;
- if an FFL-holder knowingly broke the law by selling a firearm to someone not legally allowed to own one;
- if a seller or manufacturer negligently entrusted a firearm (s)he knows is likely to be used in a crime (e.g., a straw purchase);
- if a gun dealer or manufacturer broke truth in advertising laws or knowingly marketed firearms to someone not legally permitted to possess them; or
- if a gun dealer or manufacturer broke existing gun law, specifically the 1968 Gun Control Act and the 1934 National Firearms Act.
Federal lawmakers have conferred limited immunity on industries besides firearms manufacturers. For instance, social media platforms like Twitter cannot be sued for material posts on their platform thanks to protections contained in Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which then-Senator Biden voted for, twice.
Do ‘red flag’ laws reduce suicide?
Again on April 8, Biden said, “States that have red flag laws have seen a reduction in the number of suicides in their states.”
So-called “red flag laws” — technically known as Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs) — allow law enforcement officers to remove firearms from people who legally possess them if officials deem them a risk to themselves or others. The person claiming erratic behavior may be anyone from a police officer or doctor to a disgruntled relative, and not every state gives the accused the right to defend themselves in court.
But do they work? So far, the answer is “unclear” and “inconclusive,” according to a 2020 study from the RAND Corporation. Although RAND deemed the results of Indiana’s [red flag] law “suggestive” of a possible suicide reduction, the authors concluded, “we find inconclusive evidence for the effect of extreme risk protection orders on total and firearm suicides.”
Were there 150 million ‘gun deaths’ in 13 years?
In 2020, then-candidate Biden inflated the number of gun-related deaths to unimaginable levels. Immediately after claiming that Bernie Sanders “caused carnage on our streets,” Biden specified that “150 million people have been killed since 2007, when Bernie voted to exempt gun manufacturers from liability.”
That would be nearly half of all Americans — a true “American carnage.” His campaign later clarified that he meant “150,000” deaths, which is roughly in line with the number of firearms homicides collected by the CDC. Since assuming office, that number has continued to rise. “Through the first five months of 2021, gunfire killed more than 8,100 people in the United States, about 54 lives lost per day,” according to a Washington Post analysis. “That’s 14 more deaths per day than the average toll during the same period of the previous six years.”
Can you own a machine gun?
In a February 2020 campaign stop, candidate Biden told the crowd, “”You can’t own a machine gun … no matter how much money you have.” Under the Constitution, politicians “can limit the kinds of weapons that are able to be owned.”
You actually can own a machine gun to this day, but it takes a lot of work. According to the ATF, private citizens may own an automatic weapon if “the machine gun was lawfully registered and possessed before May 19, 1986,” and the individual meets all the conditions stipulated in Form 4 — including being a legal U.S. citizenship with a clean criminal record who is not addicted to any illegal drug (including marijuana). The background check takes an estimated 9-12 months; it requires a $200 tax (which Biden would like to apply to semi-automatic rifles and magazines that hold more than 10 rounds); it will not be approved if state or local law prohibit ownership of a machine gun; and a used machine gun typically sells for $10,000 or more. “Machine guns covered by the 1934 National Firearms Act have never been used in a mass shooting in America,” noted the Guns and America Project, an initiative of multiple taxpayer-funded public media stations.
Has the Second Amendment always regulated who can own guns, and limited the kinds of weapons they can own?
“The Second Amendment, from the day it was passed, limited the type of people who could own a gun and what type of weapon you could own. You couldn’t buy a cannon,” said President Biden on June 23.
This is both true and false. It’s false that the Second Amendment forbade private citizens from owning a cannon (or any other kind of weapon). The first federal gun control law came with the 1934 National Firearms Act, which restricted, regulated, and registered certain classes of firearms and accessories. Private citizens could, and did indeed, own cannons in the revolutionary era. On the other hand, many laws have “limited the type of people who could own a gun,” particularly black Americans (whether free or slave) and American Indians. It’s unclear that this is a legacy President Biden or Kamala Harris wish to make their own.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
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