AP Photo/Michael Sohn
Just last week, former President Barack Obama spouted a pile of nonsense about guns. Obama’s done that for years, of course. This time, he claimed anyone could get a gun at any time.
It was a blatant lie. Obama knows damn good and well that there are rules in place that legally prevent a number of people from buying guns, yet he claimed there weren’t.
It was a lie so blatant that even left-leaning Politifact refused to provide any real cover for the former president.
“Anybody can buy any weapon at any time.”
No, not anybody. Federal law bans many kinds of people from buying weapons. A list by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives includes: anyone convicted in any court and sentenced to a year or more in prison; anyone with a dishonorable military discharge; anyone convicted of domestic violence or subject to a court order against harassing or threatening an intimate partner; anyone addicted to a controlled drug or has been committed to a mental institution.
An article in The Federalist, a conservative website, noted that people “under 21 years of age may not purchase handguns from a gun dealer,” and those under 18 can’t buy rifles or shotguns.
…“They can buy machine guns.”
This is highly inaccurate. A machine gun is a fully automatic weapon, meaning one simple motion to squeeze the trigger releases multiple rounds. (See our work on how so-called bump stocks can blur this distinction.)
Under federal law, no one can own or sell a machine gun, with one exception: ones owned before May 19, 1986, which are grandfathered in. And as UCLA law professor Adam Winkler told us, any sale or transfer of an old machine gun requires a special background check and a special license.
Winkler called Obama’s sweeping language on this, “absurd.”
Taking the elements of his statement together, we rate this claim Mostly False.
Update: Initially, we did not hear from Obama’s office, but after publication, Obama spokesman Eric Schultz sent us links to articles, including one from PolitiFact, that described how people circumvent gun laws. But a plain reading of Obama’s words, by us and the firearms legal specialists we reached, is that he was describing current laws, not whether people were breaking them. Our rating remains Mostly False.
Now, Politifact found every possible way it could support Obama’s assertion. It used every trick it could muster to try and prop up the former president’s claims.
And it still found it Mostly False.
I will give Politifact credit for not backing down following the Obama spokesman’s claims. Politifact’s quite right, the plain reading of his words don’t suggest people circumventing the laws. He explicitly claims people buy guns “without much, if any, regulation.” Black market sales don’t eliminate regulations, and they ignore it. A felon selling a stolen weapon to another felon isn’t an unregulated sale, it’s a sale conducted in spite of regulations.
That’s an important difference.
Obama made a claim so ridiculous, even the Obama apologists at Politifact couldn’t back it up. God knows, it tried.