Facebook has teamed up with what it calls “third-party fact-checkers” to punish users of its platform that post information embarrassing or inconvenient to the political outlook of its principals. Yet like most sources of what passes as “news” or “journalism” these days, these “independent” organizations have knowledge deficits and outright biases that color the information they provide to the public. Take, for example, Politifact’s assertion that a gun ban is not a gun ban if there are still guns left to be banned.
Last month, the NRA’s Facebook page posted a photo of Joe Biden with the message: “Joe Biden calls for gun ban.” This was in reference to Biden’s well-known and very explicit stance that he wants to ban AR-15s and like semiautomatic rifles
There is no dispute about this. As vice-president, Biden responded to a petition by gun control activists demanding a ban on “AR-15-type weapons” by stating: “I want to say this as plainly and clearly as possible: The President and I agree with you. Assault weapons and high-capacity magazines should be banned from civilian ownership.”
More recently as a candidate for the Democrat presidential nomination, Biden published what he called a “Plan for Educator’s, Students, and our Future.” Among its agenda items was to “[d]efeat the National Rifle Association” by “championing legislation to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines – bans [Biden] authored in 1994.”
So yes, he wants a gun ban. And not just on some exotic or unusual types of firearms known only to criminals or the military but on what are in fact the most popular types of centerfire rifles in America today.
After the NRA post, Facebook appended a link to a Politifact story that rated the NRA’s claim as “Mostly False.”
Politifact did not deny that Biden wants to ban AR-15s and similar guns, nor did it deny those types of firearms are very common and popular in the U.S.
Nevertheless, it insisted that “saying Biden calls for a gun ban could lead readers to believe he’s seeking to outlaw all firearms.”
This is classic use of a strawman by Politifact.
In other words, Politifact fabricated a theoretical misperception about what the NRA actually said to make a true statement “Mostly False.”
But the NRA made very clear exactly what sort of “ban” we were referring to by linking to a Fox News article about Biden’s “education” plan.
The Politifact article also used details of the 1994 “assault weapon” ban that Biden helped author and shepherd into law to make claims about what he means now when he says he wants to ban “assault weapons.”
But anti-gun Democrats have in intervening years introduced far more extensive bans under the phony “assault weapons” rubric, making it clear that prominent members of the party think the old ban did not go far enough.
Just how far Biden is proposing to go in banning guns is therefore unclear. He has not actually released legislative language for his proposed ban, nor a comprehensive list of the guns or design features he would seek to prohibit. There is no reason to believe, however, that he would (as Politifact takes for granted) feel bound by limitations in an old law that leaders of his party now view as inadequate.
In any case, a leading firearm industry source estimated there were more than 16 million AR-15-style rifles owned by civilians as of 2018. Merely banning future sales of those types of guns would unquestionably be a sweeping and dramatic incursion on access to the very types of firearms that Americans, left to their own devices, choose for lawful purposes.
It’s also notable that the old law Biden referenced was often referred to in news sources, that Politifact undoubtedly would consider reputable, as a “gun ban” or “Clinton’s gun ban,” including PBS, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times. Were they also being misleading or hyperbolic in the use of that term?
Politifact additionally mentions in passing that Biden insisted during a nationally televised debate on June 27, "We should have smart guns," and, "No gun should be able to be sold unless your biometric measure could pull that trigger.” He went on to characterize “gun manufacturers” as “our enemy.”
What Politifact conveniently omitted from its story is that no firearm currently available in the U.S. meets Biden’s fanciful “biometric” activation test.
It would therefore not be much of a stretch, given Biden’s own words, to suggest he doesn’t think any of the guns currently available for sale in the U.S. are acceptable.
Finally, Politifact ignored the fact that during the same debate, Biden also said: “I would buy back those weapons. We already started talking about that. We tried to get it done. I think it can be done. It should be demanded that we do it and that’s a good expenditure of money.”
Again, what “weapons” Biden was referring to or the details of his proposal were not clear, but the sort of “buybacks” the Obama administration promoted while Biden was vice president were modeled on policies adopted in Australia during the 1990s. These “buybacks” would more accurately be characterized as orders of mandatory firearm surrender. While owners of the affected guns were offered some bureaucratically set compensation for their property, it was an offer they couldn’t refuse. Failure to sell the banned guns could have resulted in the owners being criminally prosecuted and even jailed.
Given the foregoing, we rate Politifact’s article “politics, not fact.”
In this case the “fact-checker” was clearly trying to discredit a true statement from the NRA and minimize the increasingly radical nature of the anti-gun agenda being pursued by leading Democrats, namely Joe Biden.