Here is Part 2 of our article about the myths and facts surrounding the gun control debate. If you missed part one, visit Gun Control Myths & Facts (Part 1).
FACT: The NRA’s ability to influence electoral outcomes has been exaggerated by the media.
The media watchdog group Media Matters reviewed election spending from both the NRA Institute for Legislative Action and the NRA Political Victory Fund for the 2012 U.S. presidential election from information they received from the non-partisan Sunlight Foundation. Media Matters determined that less than five percent of money spent by the NRA went toward victorious candidates in the 2012 elections. The NRA spent more than $18 million during the election, $12 million of that in their failed attempt to defeat Obama. Less than 5% of the total $18 million was spent on victorious candidates.
FACT: The NRA-backed candidate was not elected in six of their top seven targeted senate races.
According to Media Matters, despite heavy spending by the NRA, the only general election senate race where their preferred candidate won was in Arizona. The spending breaks down as follows:
Arizona – $323,474
Florida – $629,553
Maine – $117,612
Missouri – $343,299
Ohio – more than $1 million
Virginia – $688,802
Wisconsin – $571,811
FACT: Out of 26 incumbents in the House of Representatives defeated on election day, 18 were endorsed by the NRA.
A great majority of U.S. Representatives were reelected in 2012, but among those who were defeated, the majority of them were NRA-baked candidates who received financial backing from the gun organization.
Myth 6: Assault weapons are essentially the same as firearms used for hunting and other sporting purposes.
FACT: Assault weapons, by design, are more lethal than hunting and sporting firearms.
A Violence Policy Center report from June 2011 outlined a trend in firearm manufacturing where civilian firearms are intentionally being made to be more military-like, enabling the shooter to deploy a high volume of fire over a wide swath. These military design features make rapid spray-firing easy and distinguish assault weapons from traditional sporting firearms.
- High-capacity detachable ammunition magazines that hold as many as 75 rounds of ammunition.
- A rear pistol grip (handle), including so-called “thumbhole stocks” and magazines that function like pistol grips.
- A forward grip or barrel shroud. Forward grips (located under the barrel or the forward stock) give a shooter greater control over a weapon during firing.
A report by the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research released in October 2012 noted that many of the most recent mass shootings were done using assault weapons and/or a high capacity magazine. They include:
- Virginia Tech massacre – April 16, 2007 – 32 victims dead and 17 wounded
- Fort Hood shooting – November 5, 2009 – 13 dead and dozens wounded
- Assassination attempt on former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords – January 8, 2011 – 6 dead and 13 wounded
- Aurora, Colorado shooting – July 20, 2012 – 12 dead and 58 wounded
Since the publication of that report, a gunman used an assault rifle to kill 20 children and 6 teachers in Newtown, Connecticut.
In addition to that report, the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City has identified, in a report, 30 mass shootings since 1984 where the shooter used a high-capacity magazine.
Myth 7: There is no such thing as a private sales loophole for buying a firearm.
FACT: Private sales without a background check, which are often conducted at gun shows, are extremely common.
Gun purchases from licensed dealers have required a background check since the Brady Act took effect in 1994. Federally licensed dealers have to verify that a purchaser has not been convicted of a serious crime or declared to be mentally incompetent or has been banned from purchasing a firearm for a number of other reasons. This is usually done online and takes only about a day.
But according to a Politifact.com report stemming from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s statement on a July 2012 appearance on CBS’ Face the Nation that 40 percent of guns are purchased without a background check, only licensed dealers must perform these checks, as the Brady law does not apply to private sellers at gun shows, flea markets or people who sell firearms over the internet. If a private seller suspects that a purchaser might be banned from buying a firearm under these regulations, they are obligated to stop the sale. However, no background check need be done during these sales and nobody needs to file any paperwork for these sales, making them essentially untraceable.
A 1997 study by the National Institute of Justice estimated that about 40% of all firearm sales took place through people other than licensed dealers. They based their conclusion on a random survey of more than 2,500 households.
In 1999, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives released a report on gun shows that found that a quarter of the vendors were private sellers, not licensed dealers, and that “felons and other prohibited persons who want to avoid Brady Act checks and records of their purchase buy firearms at these shows.”
These two reports, although over a decade old, are the most recent data on the subject.
Also, undercover investigators working for New York City found that 77 out of 125 sellers on 10 websites that allow unlicensed sellers to list firearms for sale agreed to go forward with a firearm sale even after the purchaser said that he could not pass a background check.
Myth 8: Closing the private sales loophole would prohibit private citizens from selling firearms.
FACT: Gun Show Loophole Legislation allows for private sales to continue, so long as a background check is performed on the buyer.
Some states require a background check for all gun sales, including private sellers who sell their firearms to other individuals, and according to a summary of state law from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, these sales are perfectly legal providing the buyer undergoes a background check conducted by a licensed firearms dealer or a law enforcement agency.
Myth 9: The Obama administration will use executive order to override The Second Amendment.
FACT: Executive order proposals on gun violence have not involved restricting weapons that law-abiding Americans can purchase.
Vice-President Joe Biden told Democrats in the House of Representatives, according to a January 15 Politico article, that the White House has identified 19 executive actions for Obama to move unilaterally on gun control and those actions could include giving the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention authority to conduct national research on guns, more aggressive enforcement of existing gun laws and pushing for wider sharing of existing gun databases among federal and state agencies, all of which focus on enforcing existing law.