Former President Barack Obama has blatantly lied about America’s gun laws before. In 2015, he claimed it was easier for people in “some neighborhoods” to buy a gun than it is to “buy a book” or “buy a fresh vegetable.”
Just last week, while in Brazil, Obama claimed:
Some of you may be aware our gun laws in the United States don't make much sense. Anybody can buy any weapon, any time without much, if any, regulation. They can buy it over the Internet. They can buy machine guns.
This should be obviously false to anyone with even a passing knowledge of America’s gun laws (which I know excludes nearly all of the media). But Politifact took it upon themselves to cushion Obama, so he doesn’t get a dreaded “Pants on Fire” rating.
When investigating the claim, Politifact looked only at the sentences beginning with “Anybody can buy any weapon.”
The “fact-checking” organization completely ignored the part where he said “without much, if any” because it was “too loose to be fact-checked.” No, it wasn’t too loose. It was contained in a sentence that began, “Anybody can buy any weapon at any time.” As Politifact did report, not just anybody can buy a weapon. Therefore, not everybody can buy a weapon without regulation.
As The Washington Free Beacon’s Alex Griswold reported, this first sentence alone deserved a “Pants on Fire” rating.
The second sentence, “They can buy it over the Internet,” is true by itself, but combined with the first sentence — suggesting anybody can buy a gun with little to no regulation over the Internet — it is also false.
The third sentence, about buying “machine guns,” is the only one Politifact really took Obama to task for.
“Under federal law, no one can own or sell a machine gun, with one exception: ones owned before May 19, 1986, which are grandfathered in. And as UCLA law professor Adam Winkler told us, any sale or transfer of an old machine gun requires a special background check and a special license,” Politifact reported.
Instead of giving Obama the deserved “Pants on Fire” rating, Politifact labeled his blatantly false remarks as simply “Mostly False.” It’s a harsher rating than they usually give Obama’s false statements, but it is still wrong in this case.
Their reasoning for the “Mostly False” rating is a claim that they took “the elements of his statement together.” This is, itself, a false statement. Taken together, Obama was claiming anyone can by any weapon with little to no regulation over the Internet, even machine guns. That is a beyond false statement.
To get the “Mostly False” rating, Politifact had to isolate Obama’s claims in order to point out that people can buy firearms over the Internet, even though Obama’s statement was making a specific claim about what firearms could be bought over the Internet and who could buy them.