We should give credit to the Associated Press's Calvin Woodward, with help from AP Polling Director Jennifer Agiesta and writer Alan Fram, for calling out politicians and other gun-grabbers who have been abusing a two decades-old gun-related statistic and passing it off as if it's still factual.
That's nice, but Woodward could have saved many words, mountains of paper, and tons of bandwidth by telling readers in plain English that claims such as one made President Barack Obama that "as many as 40 percent of all gun purchases are conducted without a background check" have never, ever been true. Instead, the AP reporter used 13 paragraphs, at one point excusing researchers who came up with a 30-40 percent estimate even "with a clear picture eluding them." There was never any defensible basis for their "estimate." Excerpts from Woodward's Wednesday item following the jump:
FACT CHECK: A TIRED OLD GUN STAT STILL IN SERVICE
Even in its heyday, the statistic wasn't the kind you could count on.
A finding that 30 percent to 40 percent of guns changed hands outside the background-check system was, at best, a rough guide post in the murky gun-ownership universe.
At least it was fresh.
Now it's old and surely very tired. But President Barack Obama, some Democratic lawmakers, a coalition of mayors and others arguing for expanded background checks won't let that statistic rest in peace.
To hear them talk, you'd think it was born yesterday, rather than 20 years ago.
... The research reported on the nature of gun acquisitions made in 1993 and 1994, asking people who had obtained guns then where the guns had come from and whether they thought the source was a federally licensed dealer. Transactions through licensed dealers were considered covered by the background check system, which was just then coming into effect.
Although the survey interviewed more than 2,500 Americans, just 251 had acquired guns during that time frame, a small sampling from which to make a general conclusion.
In all, 64 percent of those respondents reported acquiring a gun from a source they thought to be a licensed dealer, suggesting that 36 percent of gun acquisitions were in the secondary and unregulated market.
Not only was the sample so small that no valid conclusion could conceivably be reached from it, the study found that "More than 17 percent of guns acquired in 1993 and 1994 came from a family member." To believe the take of Obama and others, one would have to assume that all of these family-related acquisitions were "purchases" where money actually changed hands. My guess is most, perhaps almost all, were gifts or bequests.
The claim has always been bogus, Calvin, and you should have plainly said so.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.