In a speech on Thursday, April 8, President Biden announced a plan to counter gun abuse. He then incorrectly identified three weapons “loopholes” he wants to shut down.
Echoing a common sentiment of gun control advocates, he added: “If you walk into a store and you buy a gun, you have a background check. But you go to a gun show; you can buy whatever you want and no background check.”
However, that’s not true as before approving a sale, licensed gun retailers must look up prospective customers in a background check system typically ignored by private dealers, though some do sell weapons at gun shows.
However, this does not imply that all gun show sellers are private. Furthermore, 16 states and the District of Columbia have enacted legislation authorizing mandatory background checks, including at gun shows.
Though there isn’t much current research on the topic, a 1999 survey by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) showed that half to three-quarters of gun show dealers were approved. According to a 2017 poll of gun owners conducted in the Annals of Internal Medicine, 22% of handguns bought at gun shows did not come with any background check.
President Biden’s claim, “You go to a gun show, you can buy whatever you want, and no background check,” has been judged as “mostly false” by left-wing Politifact fact-checker.
Biden stated this while speaking at the Rose Garden on April 8th: “these bills, one, require background checks for anyone purchasing a gun at a gun show or an online sale.”
Amy Sherman from Politifact summarizes, “if you go to a gun show and buy a firearm from a federally licensed seller, you will have to pass a background check, just as if you went to a bricks-and-mortar gun store. You would only escape a background check at a gun show if you bought from a seller who isn’t federally licensed.”
Sherman added: “While the data is incomplete, federally licensed sellers have been found to make up a substantial share, and perhaps a majority, of gun show vendors.”
The fact check concludes, “when it comes to background checks for gun purchases, what matters is who sells the guns, not where the guns are sold—and when a federally licensed seller is a vendor at a gun show, they have to run a background check just as they would if they were back at a brick-and-mortar gun store.
The White House later gave Politifact feedback that “Biden wasn’t suggesting that every gun transaction at a gun show would take place without a background check. Instead, he meant that sales without background checks could occur in some cases.” However, as Politifact points out, “that’s not what he said.”