Four Gun Claims That Are Just Plain Wrong

Gun control and gun rights activists use statistics and claims that can be misleading.

Matt Givens, of Spring Hill, Tenn., right, attends a gun rights rally on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013, in Nashville.

Gun rights supporters rally in Nashville, Tenn., Jan. 19, 2013.

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A lot of numbers and accusations get kicked around as gun-rights and gun-control activists battle over how to stop gun violence in the country. But some statistics are seriously outdated or unclear, and some others are just plain wrong. Here are four claims to watch out for.

Roughly 40 percent of guns are purchased without a background check.

It is a statistic that has been echoed countless times by lawmakers like New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to get their colleagues to close the so-called gun show loophole.

Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz called the number a "dubious figure" during the Senate gun-control hearing Wednesday and he has a point. The number is more than a decade old and comes from a 1997 National Institute of Justice report analysis of a 1994 telephone survey that was conducted of thousands of gun owners. However, only 250 gun owners in the poll were asked how they got their guns. At the time, about 35 percent of the individuals surveyed said they did not think they got their gun from a licensed dealer. And even those who did buy their guns from a licensed dealer, may not have had a background check because until 1994, not all federal firearms licensees had to run background checks on all prospective buyers.

There are 20,000 gun laws on the books.

The National Rifle Association and other pro-gun groups have often cited the 20,000 gun laws that already exist on the books as reasons why more enforcement, not more legislation, is the answer to curb gun violence.

However, the Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy at the Brookings Institution debunked that statistic in 2002, calling it problematic.

The NRA is not alone in using the number. Brookings traced its origin back to Michigan Democratic Rep. John Dingell's 1965 testimony on firearms and President Ronald Reagan cited the statistic again in 1981.

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Brookings estimates there are not thousands, but closer to 300 federal and state gun laws. Brookings clarifies that it did not include local laws in its survey because roughly 40 states prohibit most local gun laws.

"Rather than trying to base arguments for more or fewer laws on counting up the current total, we would do better to study the impact of the laws we do have," the study says.

Research shows states that allow citizens to carry concealed handguns have fewer rapes and fewer murders per capita than states that restrict individuals from packing a weapon.

According to PolitiFact, this statistic is half true.

Republican lawmakers have repeatedly said states that adopt conceal carry laws are safer. And that criminals are deterred by knowing their victims might be armed. However, no clear link exists.

The numbers originally come from John Lott's book More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws, which was first published in 1998 and is now in its third edition. The book documented more than a decade of crime statistics and how they are associated with new conceal carry laws.

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However, multiple studies conducted give varying accounts of how affective the laws are and multiple experts agree it is hard to isolate whether one singular law can cause a decrease in crime.

"While the trend models show a reduction in the crime growth rate following the adoption of right-to-carry laws, these trend reductions occur long after law adoption, casting serious doubt on the proposition that the trend models estimated in the literature reflect effects of the law change," an in-depth statistical analysis by the Committee on Law and Justice says.

The Assault Weapons Ban Curbed Gun Violence

The Department of Justice conducted a study in 2004, after the 1994 assault weapon ban legislation expired, that explored just how well the ban worked. The study has been used selectively by pro-gun and gun-control supporters as evidence why the ban worked or failed. The truth is somewhere in the middle.

The report stated that "we cannot clearly credit the ban with any of the nation's recent drop in gun violence...should it be renewed, the ban's effects on gun violence are likely to be small at best and perhaps too small for reliable measurement."