Former President and Top American Gun Salesman Barack Obama has (apparently) maintained his ignorance of American firearm laws since he vacated the White House in 2016.
Speaking at VTEX Day in Brazil, Obama described the United States as having virtually zero regulations dictating the purchase or possession of guns.
“Some of you may be aware our gun laws in the United States don’t make much sense. Anybody can buy any weapon any time. Without much, if any, regulation, they can buy it over the Internet, they can buy machine guns,” Obama told the audience.
Obama tells Brazil crowd: “Some of you may be aware our gun laws in the United States don’t make much sense. Anybody can buy any weapon any time — without much if any regulation, they can buy it over the Internet, they can buy machine guns.” pic.twitter.com/MFFTgaFwLS— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) May 31, 2019
Nearly every portion of the former President’s statement is untrue.
“Anybody” can’t purchase a firearm in the United States. As per the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), the Gun Control Act (GCA), codified at 18 U.S.C. § 922(g), makes it unlawful for certain categories of people to ship, transport, receive, or possess firearms or ammunition.
These include any person who is convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year; who is a fugitive from justice; who is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance (as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act, codified at 21 U.S.C. § 802); who has been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to any mental institution; who is an illegal alien; who has been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions; who has renounced his or her United States citizenship; who is subject to a court order restraining the person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or child of the intimate partner; or who has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.
Americans also can’t purchase “any weapon.”
Many small arms are legal to own under federal law, but some have been regulated to the point of almost total oblivion. The National Firearms Act of 1934 requires a $200 tax stamp and an extensive background check to own automatic weapons, short barrel rifles and shotguns, and suppressors (among other things).
That $200 stamp made these firearms cost-prohibitive in 1934, and even though some firearms owners can now afford suppressors and SBRs, the background check process can still take nearly a year.
Machineguns, on the other hand, remain out of reach for most gun owners. The Hughes Amendment in the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986 banned the transfer or possession of machineguns for civilian use. While it grandfathered existing machineguns, that limited supply has driven up the price to well beyond what most Americans can afford.
Obama’s “any time” statement likely refers to the fact that some states allow the private transfer of firearms without a background check. While this is true, Obama’s characterization grossly exaggerates the availability and frequency of private transfers. Anyone “engaged in the business” of selling firearms must purchase a Federal Firearms License and run background checks on all purchases.
While the ATF has remained cagey about how they define “engaged in the business,” firearm owners who sell firearms “repetitively” for profit need to be licensed.
In other words, Obama’s contention that firearms are free for the taking at any time, “over the internet,” is a stretch at best and an intentional misrepresentation at worst.
The cheering Brazilian crowd might be excused for their ignorance, but this isn’t the first time Obama has wildly exaggerated the limitations of American firearms law.
In 2015, Obama claimed that “it’s easier for you to buy a handgun and clips than it is for you to buy a fresh vegetable.” A year later, he said “it is easier for a teenager to buy a Glock than get his hands on a computer or even a book.”
Both comments were soundly refuted at the time, but the former President doesn’t appear to have noticed.