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  1. Florida

Falsehoods from the second week of session, fact-checked

PolitiFact's Truth-O-Meter
Published Mar. 17, 2017

PolitiFact Florida was on the ground at the state Capitol this week to clear up erroneous statements on firearm-related legislation by Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, and a representative of Equality Florida.

Defending the "stand your ground" law he helped write, Baxley on Wednesday argued the law has had an effect on the state's declining crime rate since 2005 (the year the law passed).

"So what has happened since 2005?" Baxley asked from the floor. "We've seen violent crime continuously go down. Is that not the public policy result that we would want?"

A few problems with that: Florida's violent crime rate was already in decline before the law; that decline mirrors a national trend; and, in an update from the time Baxley made this argument in 2012, an academic study found that firearm homicides increased after the 2005 passage of the law in Florida.

"Our findings support the hypothesis that increases in the homicide and homicide by firearm rates in Florida are related to the 'stand your ground' law," the authors wrote.

In short, Baxley's argument that one thing led to another lacks proof. For a statement that contains an element of truth but ignores critical context that paints a misleading picture, the ruling is Mostly False.

On Thursday, Hannah Willard of Equality Florida joined other advocates of two bills that would tighten background checks for firearms (SB 1334, HB 1113). Willard used a well-worn figure about background checks to make the case for regulation.

She said, "Experts estimate that 40 percent of gun sales occur in no-questions-asked transactions that often take place at gun shows or on the Internet."

The statistic was already imperfect, based on 1994 survey data and including guns exchanged as gifts or inheritances (so not just sold). But new data drives the stake in this zombie talking point.

Researchers featured in the January 2017 edition of the journal Annals of Internal Medicine set out to update the 1994 data, asking 1,613 adult gun owners where, when and how they acquired their last firearm.

The result: 22 percent obtained their gun without a background check. That's barely half of the 40 percent figure that has gained wide currency for more than two decades.

The 22 percent figure "represents a smaller proportion of gun owners obtaining firearms without background checks than in the past," the authors wrote, though they emphasized that despite the smaller figure, "millions of U.S. adults continue to acquire guns without background checks, especially in states that do not regulate private firearm sales."

Since the real estimate is significantly lower than older, problematic one, PolitiFact Florida rated Willard's claim False.

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