Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick uses his political website to claim he is “leading the fight for life and liberty in Texas, including … standing up for the Second Amendment.” He also proudly notes his prior NRA endorsement.
But when it comes to the right to keep and bear arms, Dan Patrick is showing himself to be all hat and no cattle. On Friday, for example, he appeared on Fox News to promote a federal mandate for expanded background checks. In doing so, he exposed himself as not just unprincipled on the Second Amendment, but ill-informed as well.
The pretext of this about-face from his prior professed Second Amendment support comes from recent reports that a man responsible for the mass attack in Odessa, Tex. bought the gun he used in his crimes in an illegal private sale. Indeed, if the reports are to be believed, the sale was illegal on both ends. The seller is already being criminally investigated for unlicensed manufacturing and sale of firearms, while the accused killer – now dead – was reportedly prohibited by law from possessing firearms at all.
Both men, in other words, allegedly violated the laws that were already in place. The one who is still alive appears on his way to well-deserved punishment. If ever there was a scenario that could not have been prevented simply by adding more laws to be broken into the situation, this would be it.
As we noted in a statement responding to Patrick on Friday:
With due respect, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s ‘proposals’ would resurrect the same broken, Bloomberg-funded failures that were attempted under the Obama administration. Like most political gambits, Lt. Gov. Patrick’s ‘solution’precedes his possession of the facts, including this critical concession by the Obama administration: Criminalizing private firearm transfers would require a massive, governmental gun registration scheme. Instead of trampling the freedom of law-abiding Americans, the government should focus upon actual solutions: fixing our broken mental health system, prosecuting known criminals and enforcing the existing gun laws that require follow-up whenever a prohibited person tries to buy a firearm. In the meantime, the NRA remains at the forefront of legitimate efforts to combat crime in our country. We encourage Lt. Gov. Patrick to join us in support of the same.
But Patrick now claims the incident shows the need for expanded background checks on lawful firearm transfers.
Please take action to let Lt. Gov. Patrick know that law-abiding gun owners aren’t responsible for the actions of criminals.
Fact Checking Lt. Gov. Patrick:
Patrick’s talking points during the Fox segment were more akin to those used by the gun prohibition lobby to promote universal background checks. What follows is just a sampling of the inaccurate and misleading information he used to try to justify clamping down on lawful firearm-related transactions.
This crime justifies a prohibition on “stranger-to-stranger” background checks
- It’s not clear from publicly available information on the Odessa case that the two men involved in the transaction were, in fact, strangers. If anything, it seems unlikely that an illegal manufacturer and seller of guns would have advertised that activity to the general public, hoping to attract strangers to his “business.”
- Then there’s the question of how a stranger-to-stranger background check requirement would even work. How does the government, in other words, determine who knew whom at the time of a gun sale “10%-15% of all guns bought in this country are bought stranger to stranger.” “10%-15% of all guns bought in this country are bought stranger to stranger.”
"10%-15% of all guns bought in this country are bought stranger to stranger."
- It’s not clear where this claim comes from, but it does not mesh with the apparent source of another claim that Patrick made in the same segment. As explained below, a 2017 survey found about 20% of people who obtained a gun in the last two years did so without a background check. But of these, only 13% purchased the gun, including purchases from friends and acquaintances. The report makes no attempt to determine how many gun sales occur between “strangers.”
“80% of all people who buy guns in America go through a background check –about 20% do not.”
- This appears to be based on a 2017 online survey of 1,612 gun owners conducted by Harvard and Northeastern University researchers. Respondents opted-in to the survey, and this data point is specifically related to acquisitions within the last two years but is not limited to purchases –it includes gifts and inheritances. Thirteen percent (13%) of those who had purchased firearms said they had done so without a background check, but some of these purchases were from friends and acquaintances.
"Over 90% of all people in prison for a gun crime have purchased their gun from a stranger."
- This is a case of misusing statistics or possibly just not bothering to read the full report. In January of this year, the Department of Justice released the findings of a survey of prison inmates. They found that 90% of prisoners who possessed a gun during their offense did not obtain it from a retail source. However, this does not mean that they purchased it from a stranger. The full report offers details not covered in the summary:
- 25% of inmates obtained the gun from a family member or friend, whether purchased, borrowed, traded, or received as a gift.
- 43% bought the gun off the street or on the underground market which is specifically explained as “illegal sources of firearms that include markets for stolen goods, middlemen for stolen goods, criminals or criminal enterprises, or individuals or groups involved in the sale of drugs.”
- 6% stole the gun.
- 7% reported having found the gun at the location of the crime.
- 5% said the someone else brought the gun to the crime.
- And 6% said they got it from an “other”source –which is defined as “none of the other sources specified,”sources for which there were too few responses “such as bought online,”and “bought from an unknown source.
"Over three million people stopped from getting firearms from a background check--one million were convicted felons so they go to the private sector, stranger to stranger."
The mere fact the background check system denied a retail sale does not mean that public safety was served by the denial.
- The Odessa case shows anything, it shows that simply turning a person away at the counter of a gun shop does not necessarily stop truly dangerous people from going on to commit violent acts.
- On the other hand, many of the people turned away by background checks may never have been dangerous in the first place.
A July 2004 Office of Inspector General Report found that, in cases in which a licensed dealer had transferred a gun to a person who was later determined to be prohibited, “ATF special agents did not consider most of the prohibited persons who had obtained guns to be dangerous and therefore did not consider it a priority to retrieve the firearm promptly.”Moreover, 35% of those prohibited persons cases detailed in the report were later found to be false denials.
The bottom line is that Dan Patrick is proposing banning private transfers without understanding the facts or the evidence.