Hours before the House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on HR 8, a bill requiring universal background checks for gun sales, the National Rifle Association’s online broadcast outlet NRATV made a last-minute effort to push a deluge of falsehoods about the legislation, including claiming that it would “make felons out of good, hard-working Americans.”
For the first time in over two decades, the House will vote on gun safety legislation that would require a background check on all firearm sales in the country. Under current federal laws, background checks are required only for gun sales through a licensed dealer. Individuals who do not have a license to sell firearms can still sell guns to others in “private” sales, which often occurs at gun shows, over the internet, or through newspaper classified ads. Under HR 8, the vast majority of gun transfers would now require a background check, although the new bill makes several exceptions for “gifts to family members” and for temporary transfers of firearms for “hunting, target shooting, and self-defense.”
During his February 27 broadcast, NRATV host Grant Stinchfield spewed falsehoods about the new bill, claiming it could cause gun purchasers to “wait up to 10 days” for a firearm. In fact, the bill does not include a waiting period, and the National Instant Criminal Background Check System typically completes background checks for gun sales within a few minutes.
Stinchfield also falsely claimed that HR 8 would make “felons out of good, hard-working Americans because they made a mistake,” echoing the tired and false NRA talking point that background check bills seek to criminalize routine and obviously noncriminal gun use.
He went on to insist that the bill is “filled with feel-good ideas that do nothing” to impact gun violence and baselessly claimed there are “tens of thousands” of instances of unrecorded defensive gun uses.
Among other misleading claims, Stinchfield questioned the constitutionality of requiring background checks for gun sales -- even though there is no serious legal debate over the constitutionality of such provisions -- and claimed that family members will have to “jump through hoops” to transfer firearms among themselves, even though the bill explicitly exempts many intrafamily transfers.
GRANT STINCHFIELD (HOST): Let’s make people pay a fee to exercise a constitutional right. That’s what the Democrats’ new universal background check bill will do. Let’s make law-abiding Americans wait up to 10 days for a gun because the federal government can’t do its job. That’s what the Democrats’ new universal background check bill will do. Let’s make sure people leave their guns in an empty house for days and sometimes weeks when they could leave them with a friend to watch over them. That’s what the new universal background check bill will do. Let’s make law-abiding Americans jump through hoops to transfer a gun even to a family member, while criminals will simply ignore the new law. That’s what the Democrats’ new universal background check bills will do. Let’s make felons out of good, hard-working Americans because they made a mistake. That’s what the Democrats’ new universal background check bill will do. The bill is filled with feel-good ideas that do nothing to actually stop the problem of violent individuals using guns for no good. It only puts a huge burden on the overwhelming law-abiding population of this nation. Again, the Democrats offer up legislation that depends on criminals to use the honor system. And I can tell you right now there is no honor among thieves or murderers or rapists or domestic abusers.
STINCHFIELD: The lie -- as they always do, this is the Democrats’ go-to theme -- is the data shows universal background checks work. In fact, it is just the opposite. Study after study shows universal background checks do not work -- including universities half-funded by Michael Bloomberg have confirmed that universal background checks do not work to do anything to stop criminals from getting their guns. In fact, a United States study, out of the federal government, found that only 1.3 percent -- 1.3 percent of criminals got their gun from a retail establishment. Overwhelmingly, crooks [and] murderers will tell you they get their guns on the black market.
STINCHFIELD: If you want to look at statistics, there are tens of thousands of uses of firearms that are not recorded, that have saved lives. Simply someone drawing a firearm at a would-be criminal that is threatening them stops the crime. That’s never recorded anywhere. Guns in the hands of good people save lives. That is an absolute fact.
Requiring a background check for a gun sale is a deterrent for felons and other individuals who are prohibited by law from owning firearms. Even with the existing “private sale” loophole, the federal background check system has stopped more than 2.1 million prohibited sales since it was created in 1994. According to research highlighted by The Trace, a nonprofit media outlet that tracks U.S. gun violence, stronger background checks deter prohibited people by increasing the obstacles involved in obtaining a firearm. In a 2015 article, the outlet noted several states saw a drop in the number of prohibited persons applying to buy a firearm after the original background check system was created.
There is no evidence to support Stinchfield’s claim that this bill will prevent the “tens of thousands of” uncounted defensive gun uses every year. The consensus among gun violence researchers is that firearms are used more often to commit crimes than to prevent them. In fact, defensive gun use is so rare that it’s difficult to measure. Researchers have instead conducted surveys asking respondents about different types of gun uses, and the results demonstrate that criminal gun uses far outpace defensive uses.
The NRA is claiming that expanding background checks on firearms sales will place a “huge burden” on gun owners. But even gun owners don’t seem to agree with this assessment; the vast majority of people who own firearms support requiring a background check for all sales.