Politifact Just Glitching Like Robocop Enforcement Droid 209 Shooting That Poor Guy Pew Pew Pew Pew Pew
As we've noted before, the departure of the previous occupant of the Oval Office has left something of a vacuum for America's fact-checkers, who no longer have to try to counteract a raging inferno of lies with a mere garden hose of truth. Unfortunately, that leads to a bit of overzealousness when Joe Biden says things that are, at worst, incomplete, but also 100 percent factually correct. See, for instance, yesterday's Politifact "fact-check" of a true thing that Joe Biden said in his speech announcing several actions on guns.
Calling for the Senate to pass tighter federal background checks on gun purchases, Biden called attention to the "gun show loophole," which is a real thing that's addressed by the gun bill the House already passed:
These bills, one, require background checks for anyone purchasing a gun at a gun show or an online sale. Most people don't know it, 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.
Politifact rated the statement "mostly false," because, you see, that's not true for all firearms purchases at gun shows: If you buy from a federally licensed firearms dealer, you do indeed have to pass an instant background check. Therefore, Politifact argued, since the statement is only true if you seek out an unlicensed gun enthusiast who's privately selling guns at a gun show, it's actually mostly false. Except when it's absolutely true, you see.
Or to put it another way, Politifact is pointing at something and has convinced itself it's something it's not.
Look, it's not Politifact's fault that it doesn't have a "True, but also it depends" badge. Therefore Joe Biden is a big mostly liar because in Politifact's opinion, Biden had made a "blanket statement" about buying guns at gun shows. Or if "can" means it is a thing that "can" actually be done, then it's also a 100 percent true statement.
As we say, fact-checkers must miss President Other Guy something awful.
This time around, the Washington Post's Glenn Kessler at least acknowledges that "Whether this statement is misleading depends on how you hear Biden's words." If you insist it's a categorical statement, then yeah, it's not correct, although the White House pointed out he didn't say all gun sales at gun shows are unregulated, just that it's very easy to buy firearms without any background check, and that should change. So sure, maybe for the sake of absolute clarity Biden should have said it's "possible" rather than "you can," although "you can" does in fact mean "you can."
Kessler also spoke to UCLA law professor Adam Winkler, who said the point here should be fixing the loophole in gun laws, not fixating on Biden's phrasing (OK, that was my paraphrase, since we're nitpicking everything today). Sez Winkler:
Anyone who wants to buy a gun without a background check can go to a gun show and buy a gun without one. [...] If anything he is understating it. You don't have to even go to a gun show. You can sell through classified ads, online marketplaces and even informal offers to the guy next to you on the bus.
Yes! You CAN!
Also too, Daniel H. Webster, the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Prevention and Policy, did the math and found that yes, Biden's right, you can buy guns at gun shows from people who don't have a Federal Firearms License (FFL, as they say):
If you go to a gun show and two of every three sellers is an FFL that is required to performed background checks, it is still very easy to find the unlicensed sellers and exchange cash for firearms with no questions asked or background checks performed. [...] This is an exemption or gap that is exploited by criminals and traffickers and is a threat to public safety.
And as a matter of fact, WaPo notes, the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives reported in 2000 that some 14 percent of trafficked weapons made their way into the black market through gun shows and flea markets. Nobody really knows what exactly the percentage of licensed to unlicensed dealers at gun shows is, either; the best Politifact came up with was a guess that "While the data is incomplete, federally licensed sellers have been found to make up a substantial share, and perhaps a majority, of gun show vendors."
See? So while Biden is absolutely right that you "can" escape background checks at gun shows by choosing your seller carefully, what he said is "mostly false" if you pretend he said that's always the case.
We rate Politifact's fact check in this case "Pants Over Your Head," and now it's time for lunch.
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.