In his gun policy speech, Joe Biden exaggerates background checks at gun shows



Joe Biden: “You go to a gun show, you can buy whatever you want, and no background checks.”

PolitiFact decision: Usually false

Here’s why: At a Rose Garden event, President Joe Biden announced several steps his administration will take to deal with what he called an “epidemic” of gun violence.

Biden reiterated his call on Congress to pass legislation to expand background checks. The House largely voted by party to pass a pair of background check bills this year, but they didn’t make it through the Senate.

“These bills, one, require background checks for anyone buying a gun at a gun show or online sale,” Biden said at the 8 event. April. “Most people don’t know, you walk into a store and buy a gun, you have a background check. But you go to a gun show, you can buy whatever you want, and no background checks. “

When it comes to background checks on gun purchases, what matters is who sells the guns, not where the guns are sold – and when a federally licensed vendor is a vendor when ‘a gun show, he has to do a background check like he would. if they were back in a gun store.

The White House told PolitiFact that Biden was not suggesting that every gun transaction at a gun show would take place without a background check. Instead, he meant that sales without background checks could occur in some cases.

However, that is not what he said.

What the laws say about gun show sales

Proponents of stricter gun control measures often refer to the “loophole in gun shows”, although some observers say the term is inappropriate. The sentence itself does not explain who is and is not required to perform background checks at gun shows.

Federal law requires that persons dealing in firearms be licensed by the federal government.

Specifically, the law states that a license is required if “a person who devotes time, attention and labor to the trade in firearms in the course of a regular commercial or commercial activity with the objective principal of earning a living and making a profit through the repeated purchase and resale of firearms. “

The law specifically excludes a license required if a person “makes occasional sales, exchanges or purchases of firearms for the improvement of a personal collection or for a hobby, or who sells all or part of their firearms. personal collection of firearms ”.

This can sometimes be a blurry distinction, but it does mean that many gun sellers need to be licensed.

“Every federally licensed retailer, whether they sell a firearm in a physical store, gun show, or the sale begins online,” must complete a signed background check form from the US Bureau of Alcohol , Tobacco and Firearms and get approval for the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, said Mark Oliva, spokesperson for the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

Gun shows can include authorized dealers or private sellers. So, at a gun show, licensed sellers should perform a background check on buyers, and unlicensed sellers do not.

So Biden’s general statement that if you go to a gun show you can bypass a background check is wrong. It depends on who you are buying from.

It’s also worth noting something Biden’s statement ignores: A number of states have additional background check requirements that cover at least some private sales. The states include some of the most populous in the country, including California, New York, and Illinois.

The specific laws of these states vary, but at least in those states with the most stringent additional requirements, you will need to pass a background check for any firearm you purchase at a gun show, unlike to what Biden said.

What is the frequency of authorized sellers at gun shows?

How common is it for licensed sellers to set up shop at gun shows? The data available is old and of uncertain accuracy, but the data available to us shows that sellers of firearms exhibits are often licensed sellers.

Professors at Northeastern and Harvard Universities conducted a gun survey in 2015 and found that 22% of gun owners who reported obtaining their most recent gun in the previous two years had reported doing so without a background check. For privately purchased firearms, including peer-to-peer sales in person, online or at gun shows, 50% were obtained without a background check.

Jay Corzine, a sociologist at the University of Central Florida who specializes in gun research, said the observations he and his wife, Lin Huff-Corzine, a sociologist at the University of Central Florida, made in Florida recent years suggest that authorized dealers have a “disproportionate amount of inventory” for sale at salons, accounting for about three-quarters of sales.

Our decision

Biden said, “You go to a gun show, you can buy whatever you want, and no background checks.”

It’s exaggerated. If you go to a gun show and buy a gun from a federally licensed dealer, you will need to pass a background check, just like going to a traditional gun store. . You would only escape a background check at a gun show if you bought from a seller who is not a federally licensed seller.

Although the data is incomplete, it was found that federally licensed dealers represent a substantial portion, and possibly the majority, of gun show sellers.

We assess Biden’s statement primarily as false.


White House, President Biden’s remarks on gun violence, April 8, 2021

White House FACT SHEET: Biden-Harris Administration Announces Initial Measures to Address Gun Violence Outbreak in Public Health, April 8, 2021, Transcript by President Joe Biden, April 8, 2021

Giffords, Gun Show Background Checks, accessed April 8, 2021

Everytown, Unchecked: An Investigation of the Online Gun Market, February 1, 2021

Everytown, Background Checks of All Gun Sales, Accessed April 8, 2021

Matthew Miller, Lisa Hepburn and Deborah Azrael, Acquiring Firearms Without Background Checks, Annals of Internal Medicine, 2017

Bureau of Justice Statistics, Source and Use of Firearms Involved in Crime: Inmate Survey, 2016

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, “Most Frequently Asked Firearms Questions and Answers,” accessed April 8, 2021

PolitiFact, PolitiFact Sheet: 3 things to know about the “gun show loophole” January 7, 2016

PolitiFact, Bernie Sanders repeats false claim about gun sales without background checks, February 20, 2018

PolitiFact Florida, How often are firearms sold without a background check? March 16, 2017

PolitiFact Virginia, McAuliffe Says 40% of US Gun Sales Evade Background Check Nov 2, 2015

White House, statement to PolitiFact, April 8, 2021

Interview with Mark Oliva, spokesperson for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, April 8, 2021

Interview with Jay Corzine, sociologist at the University of Central Florida, April 8, 2021


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