President Joe Biden made numerous false and misleading statements while unveiling a package of gun-control actions on Thursday.
Biden falsely described how federal firearm laws work as he called for Congress to amend those laws. He pushed the Senate to pass H.R. 8, which would ban private gun sales unless done through a licensed dealer, by claiming there is a special exemption for sales made at gun shows.
“Most people don’t know, you walk into a store and you buy a gun you have a background check,” Biden said in his speech at the White House. “But you go to a gun show, you can buy whatever you want and no background check.”
Most people do not know what the president said because it is not true. Federal law does not regulate gun sales based on where they occur. Instead, it regulates them based on who is involved in the sale. If a licensed gun dealer is selling a gun to a private citizen, the sale must go through a background check. Licensed dealers can and do sell guns at gun shows.
When a private citizen sells his own used firearms to another private citizen inside their own state, federal law does not require a background check to be performed. Private citizens do often sell guns at gun shows, but such sales can be conducted anywhere else as well. Some states go beyond federal law and require all gun sales or even transfers between private citizens to go through a licensed dealer, as H.R. 8 would require.
Biden also falsely claimed the gun industry is uniquely protected from all liability while advocating for the repeal of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.
“People don’t realize the only industry in America, a billion-dollar industry, that can’t be sued, that are exempt from being sued, are gun manufacturers,” Biden said. “This is the only outfit that is exempt from being sued.”
That claim is also false. Gun manufacturers can be sued and sometimes are sued over claims of negligence. Remington settled a lawsuit over an alleged design flaw with the trigger on its popular Model 700 rifle, and Sig Sauer has been sued multiple times over an alleged safety defect with its P320 handgun. The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which Biden hopes to repeal, provides immunity to the industry over lawsuits stemming from the criminal misuse of guns by third parties.
Even the limited immunity granted to the gun industry is not unique. Numerous other industries benefit from protections against lawsuits that do not implicate willful misconduct on the part of the company. Pharmaceutical companies developing COVID-19 vaccines have immunity from lawsuits over side-effects caused by the life-saving drugs under the 2005 Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act. The same immunity extends to employers who require vaccinations for employment, according to CNBC.
Biden called on the Senate to pass gun-control legislation that has been approved by the Democratic House. He argued on behalf of H.R. 1446, which would extend the amount of time the FBI can delay a gun sale, with more misleading information. Biden said the existing three-day limit for conducting a background check allowed Dylann Roof to carry out the 2015 Charleston church shooting.
“What happened is someone was allowed to get the gun used to kill those innocent people at a church service,” Biden said. “If the FBI didn’t complete the background check within three days. There was a process. If it wasn’t done in three days, according to the Charleston loophole, you get to buy the gun.”
While the shooter in the Charleston case did get his gun after a three-day delay, extending the delay period would not have changed the outcome in that case. The shooting happened two months after the purchase and the FBI did not find the records that should have prohibited him from buying a gun. Then-FBI director James Comey said the records were not found because of a mistake made by the FBI when reviewing the shooter’s criminal records.
“The alleged killer of so many innocent people at the Emanuel AME church, should not have been allowed to purchase the gun he allegedly used that evening,” Comey said in a 2015 statement. “We are all sick that this has happened. We wish we could turn back time, because from this vantage point everything seems obvious, but we can’t.”
The White House did not respond to a request for comment on the false and misleading statements made by Biden during his speech. At a press briefing following Biden’s comments, White House press secretary Jen Psaki clarified his remarks on background checks at gun shows.
“No it’s not his belief,” Psaki told Real Clear Politics reporter Philip Wegmann when asked if Biden thought there was a special exemption in federal law for background checks. “He believes that background checks should be universal.”