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40 Percent Myth Further Debunked by Suspiciously-timed Harvard Report

Friday, January 6, 2017

40 Percent Myth Further Debunked by Suspiciously-timed Harvard Report

This week saw the publication of survey data compiled by Harvard Injury Control Research Center’s Deborah Azrael, Matthew Miller, and Lisa Hepburn, that should finally lay to rest the long-debunked factoid that 40 percent of firearms sales occur without a background check. The report, titled, “Firearm Acquisition Without Background Checks: Results of a National Survey,” and published in Annals of Internal Medicine, found that only 22 percent “of gun owners who reported obtaining their most recent firearm within the previous 2 years reported doing so without a background check.” However, rather than celebrate these new findings, gun rights supporters should remain skeptical of this data and even more so of the way its release was handled.

Despite the 40 percent statistic having been abandoned as unreliable by the very researchers whose work is cited for the figure, the bogus number has remained a staple talking point for the anti-gun community. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) used it in April 2015, and later that year presidential candidate Hillary Clinton used the flawed number, with a version of the factoid even appearing on her campaign website. Gun control advocates like Mark Kelly of Americans for Responsible Solutions and the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence refuse to stop using the statistic. Even after the Washington Post repeatedly criticized President Barack Obama’s use of the ridiculous number, the figure still appears on the White House’s issue page for gun control.

While the new findings cast even more doubt onto the already discredited 40 percent statistic, gun owners should temper their enthusiasm. As with any survey data, as amply demonstrated this election cycle, these findings are subject to significant degree of uncertainty. In truth, there is no feasible way to acquire a truly accurate determination of the percentage of private firearm transfers in relation to all firearm transfers.

Moreover, gun rights supporters might find the timing of the release of the survey data to be curious. Certainly, information suggesting that private firearms transfers were far less prevalent than gun control supporters previously contended would be useful information for voters, particularly in Nevada and Maine, which held referendums in 2016 on whether to ban the private transfer of firearms.

Making the situation even more suspicious, the survey was conducted in 2015. Further, Michael Bloomberg-funded gun control publication The Trace reported on October 21, 2015 that forthcoming survey data from Azrael and the Harvard Injury Control Research Center backed up the 40 percent statistic. The Trace claimed that,

Pulling data from a forthcoming study on gun ownership conducted by the university’s Injury Control Research Center, the scholars have landed on a figure set to corroborate the earlier finding: Harvard’s Dr. Deborah Azrael tells The Trace that of 2,072 gun owners the researchers surveyed, roughly 40 percent said they’d acquired their most recent firearm (through a sale or transfer) without going through a background check.

This begs the question, did the Harvard researchers purposefully withhold their survey findings until after the 2016 election, as their data would have severely undermined gun control proponents’ case for background checks? Given the Harvard Injury Control Research Center’s history of support for gun control, the fact that the research was primarily funded by the handgun prohibitionist-supporting Joyce Foundation, and the timing of the report’s release, such questions have merit. Even if the survey data was not fully-prepared for publication until after the election, the researchers previously demonstrated that they have no compunction with releasing preliminary findings when it suits their agenda. Survey data from such ardent gun control allies that cut in half the estimated number of private firearms transfers would have made any attempts to use the 40 percent statistic during the 2016 campaign untenable and suggested that legislation to restrict private transfers would be far less impactful.

Further, these findings have now come out in the wake of the FBI’s refusal to further burden the National Instant Criminal Background Check System by directly conducting Nevada’s state-mandated background checks on private transfers. Could the release of this research be timed to assert that the burden on FBI’s resources imposed by Nevada’s state mandate would be less than previously considered?

While this new report should finally rid us of the gun control movement’s resilient 40 percent myth, the way in which this survey data has come to light raises significant questions. According to a January 3 Trace article, “Azrael hopes the new research can help inform better debate — and policy — concerning background checks.” If such were actually the case, this information might have found its way to Maine and Nevada voters when it was available, not after the fact.

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California: Governor Newsom Signs Anti-Gun Bills into Law

Friday, October 11, 2019

California: Governor Newsom Signs Anti-Gun Bills into Law

Earlier today, Governor Newsom signed the seven anti-gun bills listed below into law.  

Dick’s Spends Big on Gun-Chopping, Virtue-Signaling Bonanza (But It Will Still Sell You a Firearm)

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Sunday, October 13, 2019

Dick’s Spends Big on Gun-Chopping, Virtue-Signaling Bonanza (But It Will Still Sell You a Firearm)

Ed Stack, the CEO of Dick’s Sporting Goods, wants you to know he’s committed to keeping AR-15s “off the street.” But he’s also committed (for the time being) to selling other types of firearms.

California: Anti-Gun and Anti-Hunting Bill Signed into Law

Monday, October 14, 2019

California: Anti-Gun and Anti-Hunting Bill Signed into Law

Prior to the October 13 deadline, Governor Newsom signed the final anti-gun and anti-hunting bills, AB 1254 and SB 172 into law.  

Number of Concealed Carry Permit Holders Increased Again

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Sunday, October 13, 2019

Number of Concealed Carry Permit Holders Increased Again

Last week, economist John Lott of the Crime Prevention Research Center released “Concealed Carry Permit Holders Across the United States: 2019,” his annual report on the number of concealed carry permit holders in the U.S.

Member Spotlight: Meet the Police Officer Who Told Congress She ‘Would Not Comply' with a Gun Ban

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Friday, October 4, 2019

Member Spotlight: Meet the Police Officer Who Told Congress She ‘Would Not Comply' with a Gun Ban

Last week, a retired Tulsa, Oklahoma law enforcement officer testified in a Congressional hearing that she “would not comply” if Congress passes a ban on firearms. Her bold assertion earned her national media attention and ...

Virginia’s Anti-gun Politicians Put Politics Before Fighting Gun Crime

News  

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Virginia’s Anti-gun Politicians Put Politics Before Fighting Gun Crime

Virginia’s anti-gun politicians are serious about attacking law-abiding gun owners, but are indifferent about actual gun crime. As highlighted in a recent report in the Washington Free Beacon by Stephen Gutowski, the Virginia Department of Justice Services ...

Virginia Police Chief Advocates Ban on All Guns at U.S. House “Assault Weapons” Hearing

News  

Friday, September 27, 2019

Virginia Police Chief Advocates Ban on All Guns at U.S. House “Assault Weapons” Hearing

On Sept. 25, the Democrat-led U.S. House Judiciary Committee held a 3 ½ hour “hearing” entitled “Protecting America From Assault Weapons.” That framing of the issue underscored the erroneous notion that Americans need protection from ...

Grassroots Spotlight: NRA-ILA Fighting the Bloomberg Money In Virginia 2019 Elections

News  

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Grassroots Spotlight: NRA-ILA Fighting the Bloomberg Money In Virginia 2019 Elections

The Nov. 5th election may be the most consequential ever for our Second Amendment rights in the Commonwealth. That’s because every seat in the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate is up for grabs and gun control ...

Kamala Harris and Her Perplexing Anti-Gun Ideas

News  

Friday, August 2, 2019

Kamala Harris and Her Perplexing Anti-Gun Ideas

U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), one of the two-dozen Democrat presidential hopefuls vying to take on President Donald Trump in 2020, has been promoting her anti-gun platform for many months. This isn’t really news, as ...

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

Gun Laws  

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

CAUTION: Federal and state firearms laws are subject to frequent change. This summary is not to be considered as legal advice or a restatement of law.

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.