With President Joe Biden securely in office and the 2024 presidential election 43 months away, the mainstream press has determined it an acceptable time to expose the frequent fibber’s most flagrant falsehoods. This week saw a plethora of so-called “fact-checkers” take issue with the blatantly false statements Biden made while announcing his “initial actions” on gun control on April 8.
In touting H.R. 8, which would criminalize the private transfer of firearms, Biden stated,
These bills, one, require background checks for anyone purchasing a gun at a gun show or an online sale.
Most people don’t know: If you walk into a store and you buy a gun, you have a background check. But you go to a gun show, you can buy whatever you want and no background check.
This decades-old gun show talking point is a lie.
There is no “gun show loophole” or “online sales loophole.” Federal law requires all firearm dealers to be licensed and to initiate a National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) check before transferring a firearm to a non-dealer, regardless of where the transfer takes place. Further, those “dealing in firearms as a regular course of trade or business with the principal objective of livelihood and profit” are required to be licensed as firearms dealers. Dealing in firearms without a license is punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.
Oddly enough, the contours of the current dealer licensing regime were elaborated upon at length by the Obama-Biden administration in 2016. As part of a set of “executive actions,” BATFE developed a document titled “Do I Need a License to Buy and Sell Firearms?” Despite Biden’s claim to have been intimately involved in Obama’s gun control efforts, it appears the noted scholar has little competence with the subject matter.
The New York Times called Biden’s gun show remarks “exaggerated.” Correctly summarizing the law, the paper explained,
Licensed firearms dealers are required to look up potential buyers in a background check system before a sale is approved. Private sellers are not required to perform such background checks, and some do sell guns at gun shows. But that does not mean that all dealers at gun shows are private, or that all sales at those shows forgo a background check.
a 1999 study from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or A.T.F., found that half to three-quarters of sellers at gun shows were, in fact, licensed.
Politifact rated Biden’s gun show comments “Mostly False.” The Annenberg Public Policy Center’s FactCheck.org called Biden’s statements “wrong.” Going further, the outfit explained,
It is also worth noting that the [Congressional Research Service], in its 2019 report, said ‘private firearms sales at gun shows … did not appear to be a significant source of guns’ for federal and state prisoners convicted of crimes involving firearms.
The criticism from a wing of the Annenberg Foundation is noteworthy, as the organization has made contributions to the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
Attacking the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), Biden claimed,
The only industry in America — a billion-dollar industry — that can’t be sued — has exempt from being sued — are gun manufacturers.
this is the only outfit that is exempt from being sued.
The PLCAA was enacted in 2005, with broad bipartisan support, to protect the firearms industry from frivolous and politically-motivated lawsuits. In the mid-1990s, gun control advocates, big city politicians, and trial attorneys teamed up in an attempt to use the courts to bilk the gun industry for millions and force them to agree to gun control measures that gun control supporters were unable to enact in Congress. The suits sought to hold members of the industry liable for the criminal behavior of those who misused their products.
These suits, though they were of little merit, posed a grave threat to the industry - and in turn, America’s gun owners. In 1998, the executive director of the anti-gun U.S. Conference of Mayors was quoted by the New York Times as stating, “[t]he lawyers are seeing green on this issue… they think they can bring the gun industry to its knees.” One of those attorneys “seeing green,” John Coale, was quoted in a 2000 Washington Post article remarking, “[t]he legal fees alone are enough to bankrupt the industry.”
The PLCAA merely prohibits lawsuits against the gun industry for the criminal misuse of their products by a third party. Suits against the industry for knowingly unlawful sales, negligent entrustment, and those predicated on traditional products liability grounds are still permitted.
The New York Times took issue with Biden’s characterization of the PLCAA, and pointed out that the industry is still subject to suit “for breaches of warranty or if a manufacturer or dealer sells a gun knowing that it would be used in a crime.” The Times also noted that the firearms industry’s protection is not unique, explaining,
The gun industry is also not the only industry to have special protections against lawsuits. For example, technology companies also enjoy a legal shield known as Section 230, which protects websites from liability for content created by their users.
The Washington Post and FactCheck.org also pointed out the inaccuracies in Biden’s comments on the PLCAA.
Prominent anti-gun politicians have made a habit of spewing falsehoods about the PLCAA. In 2015 PolitiFact gave failed Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton a “False” rating for a claim that the firearms industry was “the only business in America that is wholly protected from any kind of liability.”
Biden also stretched the truth in regards to so-called “red flag” laws, which empower the government to confiscate an individual’s guns without due process. Biden claimed, “States that have red flag laws have seen and — seen a reduction in the number of suicides in their states.” Aside from the legitimate discussion as to whether the state should be further empowered in order to protect individuals from themselves, the evidence isn’t there for Biden’s claim.
It isn’t rare for Biden to deceive the public regarding firearms. What is rare is the stinging rebuke the president received from an often fawning mainstream press. A cynic could be forgiven for being skeptical that such dogged coverage will continue into the next election cycle.