Everytown for Gun Safey, the pro-gun control organization funded by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, sent GunsAmerica a fact check on a video, entitled “Vote No On I-594,” recently released by the National Rifle Association.
GunsAmerica published the NRA video on Friday. For those unfamiliar with Initiative 594 in Washington State, it is a universal background check mandate that is up for a vote come November. If passed, I-594 would require background checks on pretty much all private transfers and sales with some exceptions: immediate family members, and temporary transfers at a shooting range or while hunting.
While I-594 has the support of the gun-control advocates, a competing measure known as I-591 has the backing of gun-rights organizations, specifically the Second Amendment Foundation and the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. I-591 would protect against gun confiscation, universal gun registration and would not allow the state to pass a background check law that is tougher than the federal standard.
In the interest of being fair and balanced, Everytown’s fact check of the NRA is presented below. As journalists, we believe in representing both sides of the debate. That said, as gun owners and patriots we also believe in being transparent about our positions on certain policies. Needless to say, if we were residents of Washington State we’d be voting “NO on 594” and “YES on 591.”
How would you vote?
FACT-CHECK: “VOTE NO ON I-594”
In Washington State this November, citizens will vote directly on ballot initiative I-594, public safety legislationthat will require background checks for all gun sales andhelp keep criminals in the state from obtaining firearms. The NRA is fighting tooth-and-nail to stop the initiativefrom passing. In a video released on October 2, 2014 entitled “Vote No on I-594,” they make a string of false claims about gun commerce and gun laws in Washington State. Misleading statements from the video are examinedbelow.
NRA CLAIM: In Washington State, guns are not being transferred in unlicensed “private” sales without background checks.
“You can’t buy a gun on GunBroker and ship it across state lines without it touching a dealer. And therefore the background checks are already being done.”
FACT: Tens of thousands of guns are transferred each year in Washington State without background checks, including at gun shows and online. Current law does not require background checks for any unlicensed gun sales in the state.
- Dozens of websites—like Armslist.com, the self-described Craigslist for guns—each host tens of thousands of ads for unlicensed gun sales and provides a forum for strangers to connect and arrange offline gun transfers, just like Craigslist does for furniture sales and concert tickets.
- An Everytown investigation of online gun sales in Washington State showed that unlicensed sellers posted 16,739 gun ads over a twenty-week period on just five websites — a rate of more than 44,000 gun ads posted a year.
NRA CLAIM: Background checks do not prevent criminals from obtaining guns.
“If in fact we’ve stopped 40,000 people in Washington, I’d like to know where they’re doing time. Cause they’re not. So what good is it? It is a complete fallacy.”
FACT: Each year in Washington State, background checks stop thousands of gun sales to criminals and other dangerous people.
- Since 1998, the background check system has stopped 2.2 million sales to prohibited people nationwideincluding more than 40,000 in Washington State. Of those, more than 24,000 had been convicted of felonies and over 6,000 had been convicted of domestic violence crimes or were under restraining orders.
NRA CLAIM: Requiring background checks for private sales will not reduce crime or prevent gun violence.
“I don’t believe that 594 will reduce violent crime by even a half of 1 percent. The day of the Columbine attack, I was having lunch with a student. […] And remember, those weapons were obtained illegally.”
FACT: Requiring background checks for all gun sales is the most effective measure states can take to prevent gun violence and save lives.
- In states that require background checks for all handgun sales, 38 percent fewer women are shot to death by intimate partners, 39 percent fewer law enforcement officers are killed with handguns, and there is 48percent less gun trafficking.
- The guns used to perpetrate the April 20, 1999 shooting at Columbine High School were purchased in private, unlicensed sales without background checks. In a referendum in the wake of the shooting, the citizens of Colorado approved by 70 percent to 30 percent a measure to require background checks on all sales at gun shows, and in 2013 the state further strengthened the law to require them for all unlicensed sales, including online.
- Missouri once required people to pass a background check and obtain a purchase permit before buying a handgun, but when it eliminated this requirement in 2007, the percentage of likely trafficked guns doubled and criminals became increasingly reliant on guns purchased inside the state. Subsequent peer-reviewed research shows that, controlling for other factors, the change was associated with a 23 percent increase in firearm homicides, or an additional 55-63 homicide deaths in Missouri per year.
NRA CLAIM: Background checks are a burden on unnecessary burden on law-abiding citizens.
“You’re only hurting a law-abiding citizen.”
FACT: Finding a gun dealer to conduct a check is quick and easy, and the vast majority of gun owners agree that selling a gun responsibly means firstconducting a background check on the buyer.
- There are 1,103 federally licensed gun dealers in Washington State—twice the number of post offices and nearly 4 times the number of McDonald’s. All told, 98 percent of Washington residents live within 10 miles of one of them.
- In a survey conducted by Republican pollster FrankLuntz, 82 percent of gun owners supported requiring background checks for all gun sales.
NRA CLAIM: I-594 will interfere with temporary transfers between hunting buddies.
“You can’t lend a gun to a friend to go hunting. You can’t even shoot like trap shoot and let your buddy shoot your gun if they pass this law.”
FACT: I-594 exempts from the background checks requirement for temporary transfers while hunting or while at a shooting range.
- When pressed by the Seattle Times, opponents of I-594 were unable to cite a single instance “where an otherwise-law-abiding citizen in another state had been prosecuted on a technicality of gun-transfer laws.”
NRA CLAIM: I-594 will prevent families from passing down firearms from generation to generation.
“Under 594, it would become illegal for my dad to pass our family guns, which have been in the family for 50, 60, 70 years, down to me.”
FACT: I-594 exempts from the background checks requirement any transfers by inheritance, and there is an exception for gifts between family members.
NRA Claim: I-594 violates Washington State residents’ constitutional rights.
“They’re taking away our rights. […] I-594 is just another attempt to erode the Second Amendment.”
FACT: No federal court has ever found that background checks violate the Second Amendment.
- The landmark Heller opinion explicitly states that “laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms” are lawful under the Second Amendment.
- In 2014 in Colorado, the United States District Court upheld the 2013 law requiring background checks for gun sales in that state.
NRA CLAIM: I-594 is a backdoor to universal firearm registration and confiscation.
“594 is really universal gun registration. There’s really no question in my mind that the goal is collecting a database on gun owners.”
FACT: Under I-594, Washington State Police will not collect any information related to possession of firearms. Private gun sales will be subject to the same reporting already required sales by gun dealer.
NRA CLAIM: Opposition to I-594 is bipartisan and broad-based.
“We actually have a really solid grassroots effort and we’re actually finding that it spans the full political spectrum.”
“This is not just a Republican, by the way. There are some Democrats that are also not supportive of 594.”
FACT: Background checks are nearly universally popular
- Eight out of 10 Washington residents—as well as 74 percent of NRA members and 55 percent of licensed gun dealers—support requiring criminal background checks for all gun sales.
NRA CLAIM: Former Mayor Bloomberg has never supported policies that reduced crime.
“Nothing Bloomberg has done anywhere in the country has stopped crime.”
FACT: While Mike Bloomberg was mayor of New York City, strong laws requiring background checks for all sales — along with pro-active policing and tough sentencing guidelines for illegal gun possession — made it more difficult for criminals to purchase and possess guns. As a result, shootings, murders, and murders-by-gun reached record lows.
- New York City has fewer major felony crimes per 100,000 residents than any of the nation’s top 25 largest cities.
- By the end of 2013 overall felony crime was down 32percent compared to 2001, despite adding 300,000 more people to the city’s population while Mike Bloomberg was mayor.
- Murder and shootings both fell to record lows in 2013. Murder dropped 49 percent compared to 2001 the year before Mike Bloomberg became mayor.
- In the 12 years of Mike Bloomberg’s tenure as mayor there were 9,275 fewer murders in New York City compared to the 12 years prior to Mike Bloomberg taking office.
- And while crime was reduced to record lows under Mike Bloomberg, incarceration rates in New York City fell by 36 percent. This drop occurred as the national incarceration rate rose by 3 percent during the same period.
- Franklin Zimring, the respected law professor who wrote the definitive book on New York City’s crime decline, called the decline in crime deeper and longer lasting than in any city in the country — a Guinness Book of Records reduction.