Fuzzy math

…and by fuzzy, I mean that there’s something funky growing on Obama’s old data.

John Lott dissects the latest “statistic” being tossed around by the anti-gun left; that 40% of gun sales don’t go through a background check. But there’s a problem with that number. It simply isn’t true.

Actually, the number reported was a bit lower, 36 percent, and as we will see the true number of guns “sold” without check is closer to 10 percent. More important, the number comes from a 251-person survey on gun sales two decades ago, early in the Clinton administration. More than three-quarters of the survey covered sales before the Brady Act instituted mandatory federal background checks on February 28, 1994. In addition, guns are not sold in the same way today that they were sold two decades ago.

The number of federally licensed firearms dealers (FFLs) today is only a fraction of what it was. Today there are only 118,000; while back in 1993 there were over 283,000. Smaller dealers, many operating out of their homes, were forced out by various means, including much higher costs for licenses.

The survey asked buyers if they thought they were buying from a licensed firearms dealer. While all FFLs do background checks, those perceived as being FFLs were the only ones counted. Yet, there is much evidence that survey respondents who went to the very smallest FFLs, especially the “kitchen table” types, had no inkling that the dealer was actually “licensed.” Many buyers seemed to think that only “brick and mortar” stores were licensed dealers, and thus reported not buying from an FFL when in fact they did.

Now when it comes to some varieties of beer, a little funkiness can be a good thing. But that isn’t the case when it comes to data; especially data that’s being used to push public policy. You really don’t want a dose of brettanomyces added to your data.