“Forty percent of guns are sold at gun shows, online sales,” said Hillary Clinton when speaking this month in New Hampshire about gun violence. She was criticizing what she called a “loophole” in the law that permits gun sales without a background check. The Washington Post’s fact checker calls the 40 percent number “a very stale figure, based on data about two decades old.” The Post notes that many sellers at guns shows have federal firearms licenses and conduct background checks, while 17 states (including California, New York and Illinois) require background checks on all handgun sales at gun shows.
The original estimate came from a federally funded Police Foundation study in 1994. Jens Ludwig of the University of Chicago, one of the co-authors, said that somewhere between 14 percent to 22 percent of firearms were purchased without a background check, only half the number cited by Clinton. A survey of 2,000 firearm owners recently conducted by the Gfk KnowledgePanel might provide an update to the two-decade-old statistic, but in the meantime, the Post gives three Pinocchios to Clinton for exaggerating the percentage of guns sold at gun shows or online.