Explore The NRA Universe Of Websites

40 Percent Myth Further Debunked by Suspiciously-timed Harvard Report

Friday, January 6, 2017

This week saw the publication of survey data compiled by Harvard Injury Control Research Center’s Deborah Azrael, Matthew Miller, and Lisa Hepburn, that should finally lay to rest the long-debunked factoid that 40 percent of firearms sales occur without a background check. The report, titled, “Firearm Acquisition Without Background Checks: Results of a National Survey,” and published in Annals of Internal Medicine, found that only 22 percent “of gun owners who reported obtaining their most recent firearm within the previous 2 years reported doing so without a background check.” However, rather than celebrate these new findings, gun rights supporters should remain skeptical of this data and even more so of the way its release was handled.

Despite the 40 percent statistic having been abandoned as unreliable by the very researchers whose work is cited for the figure, the bogus number has remained a staple talking point for the anti-gun community. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) used it in April 2015, and later that year presidential candidate Hillary Clinton used the flawed number, with a version of the factoid even appearing on her campaign website. Gun control advocates like Mark Kelly of Americans for Responsible Solutions and the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence refuse to stop using the statistic. Even after the Washington Post repeatedly criticized President Barack Obama’s use of the ridiculous number, the figure still appears on the White House’s issue page for gun control.

While the new findings cast even more doubt onto the already discredited 40 percent statistic, gun owners should temper their enthusiasm. As with any survey data, as amply demonstrated this election cycle, these findings are subject to significant degree of uncertainty. In truth, there is no feasible way to acquire a truly accurate determination of the percentage of private firearm transfers in relation to all firearm transfers.

Moreover, gun rights supporters might find the timing of the release of the survey data to be curious. Certainly, information suggesting that private firearms transfers were far less prevalent than gun control supporters previously contended would be useful information for voters, particularly in Nevada and Maine, which held referendums in 2016 on whether to ban the private transfer of firearms.

Making the situation even more suspicious, the survey was conducted in 2015. Further, Michael Bloomberg-funded gun control publication The Trace reported on October 21, 2015 that forthcoming survey data from Azrael and the Harvard Injury Control Research Center backed up the 40 percent statistic. The Trace claimed that,

Pulling data from a forthcoming study on gun ownership conducted by the university’s Injury Control Research Center, the scholars have landed on a figure set to corroborate the earlier finding: Harvard’s Dr. Deborah Azrael tells The Trace that of 2,072 gun owners the researchers surveyed, roughly 40 percent said they’d acquired their most recent firearm (through a sale or transfer) without going through a background check.

This begs the question, did the Harvard researchers purposefully withhold their survey findings until after the 2016 election, as their data would have severely undermined gun control proponents’ case for background checks? Given the Harvard Injury Control Research Center’s history of support for gun control, the fact that the research was primarily funded by the handgun prohibitionist-supporting Joyce Foundation, and the timing of the report’s release, such questions have merit. Even if the survey data was not fully-prepared for publication until after the election, the researchers previously demonstrated that they have no compunction with releasing preliminary findings when it suits their agenda. Survey data from such ardent gun control allies that cut in half the estimated number of private firearms transfers would have made any attempts to use the 40 percent statistic during the 2016 campaign untenable and suggested that legislation to restrict private transfers would be far less impactful.

Further, these findings have now come out in the wake of the FBI’s refusal to further burden the National Instant Criminal Background Check System by directly conducting Nevada’s state-mandated background checks on private transfers. Could the release of this research be timed to assert that the burden on FBI’s resources imposed by Nevada’s state mandate would be less than previously considered?

While this new report should finally rid us of the gun control movement’s resilient 40 percent myth, the way in which this survey data has come to light raises significant questions. According to a January 3 Trace article, “Azrael hopes the new research can help inform better debate — and policy — concerning background checks.” If such were actually the case, this information might have found its way to Maine and Nevada voters when it was available, not after the fact.

Latest News

Nevada Bloomberg: Spotlight  

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Sneak Attack on Washington State

Did you know the Winchester 1903, a .22-caliber rifle that has a 10-round tube magazine, is a “semi-automatic ...

Associated Press  

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Nevada judge: State can't enforce 2016 anti-gun measure external link

Proponents should have known the measure "would be contingent upon the FBI's approval" for the federal agency to take over criminal background checks during private sales of firearms, Clark County District Court Judge Joe Hardy ...

Las Vegas Sun  

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Judge mulls Nevada gun buyer screening law passed in 2016 external link

It's not up to a state judge to tell the governor to enact a flawed gun buyer screening law that voters approved nearly 18 months ago, a top state government lawyer said Tuesday. "They're asking ...

Associated Press  

Monday, January 8, 2018

Governor, AG Call Nevada Gun Background Checks Law Defective external link

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and state Attorney General Adam Laxalt are telling a judge that a strict gun background-check ballot measure that voters passed in November 2016 was defective as written and can't be enforced.

Las Vegas Review-Journal  

Friday, December 1, 2017

Nevada: Background check supporters, like Wolfson, still refuse to admit Question 1 mistake external link

Question 1 was the 2016 ballot initiative that requires background checks on private party sales. Despite supporters spending almost $20 million, voters only narrowly approved it last November. The organizers of the effort should have ...

Elko Daily Press  

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Nevada: Gun law backers too wily for their own good external link

The initiative backers — in order to avoid having a fiscal note saying what the mandatory background checks would cost taxpayers, something that might cost votes — wrote the new law to say that those ...

Las Vegas Review Journal  

Monday, October 23, 2017

Attorney General Adam Laxalt: Nevada’s Question 1 wouldn’t have stopped Las Vegas Strip attacker external link

The horrific massacre in Las Vegas was one of the worst displays of violence our state and our nation have ever seen. Yet as we continue to deal with the shock and the grief of ...

Nevada Bloomberg: Spotlight  

Friday, July 28, 2017

Poll Shocker: “Overwhelming” Support for More Background Checks is Actually Rather Underwhelming

Lacking evidence that gun control restrictions reduce crime or enhance public safety, proponents of such measures seek to ...

Nevada Bloomberg: Spotlight  

Friday, July 21, 2017

Home Alone in Washington State

Back in 2013, when Washington State’s anti-gun groups rolled out Initiative 594, they promised voters this “universal background ...

Reno Gazette-Journal  

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Gun-control groups try to undermine Nevada Attorney General Laxalt external link

The ill-conceived Question 1 ballot initiative was doomed from the start. That’s because it was poorly written by out-of-state gun control groups that clearly did not understand Nevada's existing firearms background check system. Now those ...

Help Us Defend The Silver State

Help us defend the Second Amendment rights of all Nevadans against Bloomberg's Gun Control Initiative.


Bloomberg isn't going to stop trying to take away your personal freedoms, so be sure to stay informed with the latest information.