We have long known that the argument of gun control activists that 40 percent of gun sales in this country occur without a background check was bogus. Even the Washington Post zinged President Obama in 2013 for his frequent use of that ersatz stat, awarding three of four possible Pinocchio’s in a rating category that requires “significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions”.
The administration and its supporters on Capitol Hill had been using this exaggeration taken from a famously flawed two-decade old, 250-person phone survey to advance their case that the so-called “Gun Show loophole” had to be closed through passage of expanded background checks. They failed to win that case in the U.S. Senate with the 2013 defeat of the Manchin-Toomey amendment, of course, but they haven’t given up.
So, we were more than a little interested to see the Associated Press took a look at Colorado’s experience in expanding background checks to cover all private firearms transactions in the Rocky Mountain state. Supporters of the law put an additional $3 million into the Colorado Bureau of Investigation’s account to make sure that funds were there for the 420,000 additional checks they expected to be performed over the first two years of the new law.
So, a year after the law being in effect, how many checks had been performed? It turns out that number is 13,600 — or about 7 percent of the estimated first-year total. But wait, there’s more. There were approximately 311,000 background checks done it total during the first year of the expanded law being on the books in Colorado. That means about 4 percent of the total number of background checks were for private transfers.
Background checks at gun shows had already been the law in Colorado. In fact, the vast majority of firearms sales at gun shows nationwide are made by federally-licensed retailers – a fact seldom acknowledged by anti-gun activists. So, we knew that the 40 percent number was fallacious. Now, however, we have an outside review of one’s state’s real experience with expanding background checks that found only a mid-single decimal point increase in background checks due to private sales. This is a real data point.
And let’s remind those that think more control laws are always the answer: Criminals don’t obey the law. The law-abiding obey the law – and we’re not the problem. Expanding background checks have accomplished little in Colorado – even if some anti-gun activists are now speaking less expansively of their panacea-like ability.