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The NRA Wants Members to Lie to Their Families at Thanksgiving . . . And Every Holiday

Distorting the facts about gun violence is the gun lobby's specialty.

This year several ideological groups and news outlets are trying to prep their readers for the inevitable political conversation around the Thanksgiving dinner table. But the National Rifle Association is taking a new tact -- it wants you to lie to your family members about gun violence.

In advance of Thanksgiving, Demand Action -- a project of gun violence prevention group Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG) -- released  a fact sheet called "Talking Turkey About Guns." According to Demand Action, "when talk around the table turns to politics and current events, you can help set the record straight on some of the most common myths about guns." The fact sheet offers a number of arguments in support of expanded background checks on gun sales and points out that the United States has more gun violence than any other developed country in the world.

The NRA responded to the fact sheet with  a rebuttal titled, "Bloomberg is full of stuffing," a reference to MAIG founder and co-chair Michael Bloomberg. According to the NRA, Bloomberg is attempting to "put a damper on a favorite American holiday" and "he wants to turn Thanksgiving table talk to curtailing our Second Amendment rights." The NRA encourages its supporters to "take a few minutes before dinner to set the record straight about Michael Bloomberg's latest attempt to inject himself into every Americans' life."

The NRA rebuttal, however, is extremely dubious. Most glaringly, in two of its four sections it fabricates quotes that purport to come from the Demand Action fact sheet in a way that distorts Demand Action's points. The other two sections are also suspect. In one, the NRA falsely suggests that a claim in Demand Action's fact sheet was unfavorably fact checked by The Washington Post, when the Post fact check was about a claim Demand Action did not make. The other section fails to debunk a Demand Action claim by pushing the discredited theory that increasing gun ownership reduces crime.

The NRA Downplays The Substantial Number Of Guns That Change Hands Without A Background Check

The NRA claims that it is a "Bloomberg Myth" that "40 percent of guns are transferred without a background check."

However, a 1994 study found that  between 30 and 40 percent of firearm transfers occurred without a background check, supporting Demand Action's assertion. The study does suffer from two flaws: the data is nearly 20 years old and the sample size in the study was small. But as PolitiFact  pointed out, the National Rifle Association has not provided data to contradict the figure. Furthermore, for decades the NRA has used its allies in Congress to  stifle research on gun violence that could produce an updated figure.

Regardless, other data -- including research from the gun industry -- support the claim that a substantial number of firearm transactions occur without a background check. A 2012  analysis by Michigan State Police of handgun sales found that 48 percent were conducted through private sales where no background check is required. The National Shooting Sports Foundation, a lobbying group representing the gun industry, found in a 2010  member survey that approximately half of respondents purchased assault weapons from venues where a background check is not necessarily required, including over the Internet, from gun shows, or through a face-to-face sale.

The Washington Post  fact check that the NRA cites in its rebuttal did not fact check the 1994 survey -- which Demand Action cited -- but rather a claim that evolved out of the survey that 40 percent of gun "sales" -- as opposed to "transfers" -- were conducted without a check. Indeed, the NRA's mockup of the Washington Postarticle includes the headline, "Obamas [sic] continued use of the claim that 40 percent of gun sales lack background checks." Furthermore, The Post fact check is suspect because it relied on the statistical analysis of gun researcher John Lott who is  widely discredited in academic circles because he frequently manipulates data to support the position of the NRA.

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