Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Politics

PolitiFact: Sorting out the truth in aftermath of gun vote

As Sandy Hook Elementary parents watched from the balcony, a bipartisan effort to expand background checks on gun sales died Wednesday on the U.S. Senate floor.

Reaction from all sides was intense. Former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who nearly died from a gunshot to the head in 2011, wrote an impassioned op-ed, charging that senators "gave into fear" and ignored the will of the public.

President Barack Obama, speaking in the Rose Garden, said "the gun lobby and its allies willfully lied about the bill."

"They claimed that it would create some sort of 'big brother' gun registry, even though the bill did the opposite. This legislation, in fact, outlawed any registry. Plain and simple, right there in the text," Obama said.

The NRA, for its part, issued a statement calling the failed proposal "misguided," saying it would have limited the transfers of guns between friends and families.

So which reactions were accurate? PolitiFact sorted out the truth from spin.

Wednesday's failed vote was on an amendment, offered by Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, that would have required background checks for private sales at gun shows and on the Internet, two areas that are currently exempt from federal law.

Giffords' column ran in the New York Times under the headline "A Senate in the Gun Lobby's Grip."

"Some of the senators who voted against the background-check amendments have met with grieving parents whose children were murdered at Sandy Hook, in Newtown," Giffords wrote. "Some of the senators who voted no have also looked into my eyes as I talked about my experience being shot in the head at point-blank range in suburban Tucson two years ago, and expressed sympathy for the 18 other people shot besides me, six of whom died.

"These senators have heard from their constituents — who polls show overwhelmingly favored expanding background checks."

PolitiFact found multiple, independent polls showing that 80 percent to 90 percent of Americans favor more criminal background checks on gun sales. We rated her claim True.

Obama said the Manchin-Toomey amendment "outlawed any (gun) registry" — and he was right.

Existing law already prohibits creation of a registry, and the new amendment doubled down on that. It specifically prohibited the seizure of records, forbade the attorney general from consolidating or centralizing records and provided for fines and imprisonment for anyone who did consolidate or centralize records. We rated Obama's statement True.

The NRA claimed in its statement that the amendment made it a crime for family and friends to sell guns to each other without a background check: "This amendment would have criminalized certain private transfers of firearms between honest citizens, requiring lifelong friends, neighbors and some family members to get federal government permission to exercise a fundamental right or face prosecution."

But the Manchin-Toomey amendment specifically excluded family transfers from the background check requirement. It expanded checks, however, to Internet and gun show sales.

So the only way private transfers among friends or neighbors could be "criminalized" is if they happened at a gun show or through an advertised sale and the seller didn't conduct a background check. That's a limited circumstance. The rating: Mostly False.

Anger and frustration showed on Obama's face as he spoke in the Rose Garden, surrounded by Newtown families, Giffords and Vice President Joe Biden. He accused the NRA of flip-flopping, saying the group "used to support expanded background checks." In fact, the NRA has acknowledged changing its position. At the time of the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in Colorado, the group ran ads in newspapers saying it was "reasonable to provide for instant checks at gun shows just like at gun stores and pawn shops." The group now says expanded checks would do nothing to reduce gun crime and would only be a burden on law-abiding gun owners. We rated Obama's claim True.

But Obama oversimplified how many background checks are covered by the current law when he said, "so 60 percent of guns are already purchased through a background check system; this would have covered a lot of the guns that are currently outside that system."

The 60 percent figure stems from a scholarly study which found that 40 percent of guns are sold without a background check. But that study is now 16 years old, and there's no new evidence to indicate if the statistic is still true. The rating: Half True.

Times staff writers Becky Bowers and Louis Jacobson contributed to this report. Read the full versions of these rulings at PolitiFact.com.

Comments
Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Explain this to me: In the world of partisan politics, how is being an independent thinker a bad thing? When it comes to general elections, we seem to like rogues and mavericks. We want outsiders and swamp scrubbers. Folks appreciate a good finger-...
Updated: 10 hours ago
‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump lashed out Sunday at "the World’s most expensive Witch Hunt," trashing a new report in the New York Times that said an emissary representing the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates offered help...
Published: 05/20/18
Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan pushed a radical idea on Twitter: Parents should pull their children out of school until elected officials pass stricter gun control laws.His tweet came hours after a shooting rampage at a Houston-area high scho...
Published: 05/20/18
China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

WASHINGTON - China offered to boost its annual purchases of U.S. products by "at least $200 billion" Friday as two days of talks aimed at averting an open breach between the two countries ended in Washington, a top White House adviser said.Larry Kudl...
Published: 05/19/18
Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

TAMPA — A concert organizer is accusing Hillsborough County Commission candidate Elvis Piggott of falsifying a contract and prompting the headline act to pull out of a gospel show.In a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court, Corey Curry claims h...
Published: 05/18/18
Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

WASHINGTON - The Senate voted Thursday to confirm Gina Haspel as the next CIA director after several Democrats were persuaded to support her despite lingering concerns about her role in the brutal interrogation of suspected terrorists captured after ...
Published: 05/17/18
GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

WASHINGTON — Republicans are pushing for a speedy confirmation vote as early as Thursday after the Senate intelligence committee endorsed President Donald Trump’s CIA nominee Gina Haspel to lead the spy agency. But opponents concerned about Haspel’s ...
Published: 05/16/18
Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick to lead CIA, wins support of Senate Intelligence Committee

Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick to lead CIA, wins support of Senate Intelligence Committee

WASHINGTON - The Senate Intelligence Committee moved Wednesday to recommend Gina Haspel for CIA director, setting up a floor vote that her opponents say will signal to the world whether the United States condemns or condones torture.The committee vot...
Published: 05/16/18
Carlton: Time for Hillsborough’s Uncle Tom Road to go — but artfully.

Carlton: Time for Hillsborough’s Uncle Tom Road to go — but artfully.

In Hillsborough County — where one of the world’s largest Confederate flags still flies near a busy interstate — you may not be surprised to learn there’s an Uncle Tom Road.The name is a flash point and a slur, shorthand for a black person who will d...
Published: 05/16/18
Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell drops out of Pinellas Commission race

Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell drops out of Pinellas Commission race

With six months to go before the Nov. 6 election, Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell on Monday dropped her bid against Pinellas County Commissioner Pat Gerard for the at-large District 2 seat.Caudell said she decided she’d better be better suited f...
Published: 05/14/18