Are 40 percent of guns sold are purchased without a background check?


No, 22 percent Harvard University found.


"Guns in America: National Survey on Private Ownership and Use of Firearms"- National Institute of Justice

"Firearm Acquisition Without Background Checks: Results of National Survey:- Northeastern University and Harvard School of Public Health

Josh Miller-Lewis- Communications Director for Senator Bernie Sanders

"Guns"- Gallup

"The demographics of gun ownership"- Pew Research Center


There's a way to cover politics without being political.

That's what Verify is all about: delivering the facts sans opinion so that you can make informed decisions about what to share on social media....especially when it comes to the sale and control of firearms.

One statistic swirling online became popular last week when Senator Bernie Sanders said an interview that 40 percent of guns purchased are sold without background checks.

It had many up in arms on Twitter--but is it true?

Our Verify researchers traced this stat back to a 1994 study from the the National Institutes of Justice, that's part of the Department of Justice.

Researchers surveyed gun owners over the phone and asked them how they got their guns. Sixty percent said they got a gun from a gun store, store or pawnshop.

That left 40 percent who got it through friends, family, gun shows and the mail, which likely meant no background checks.

The study was conducted between 1993-1994, making the research 24 years old. Harvard University and Northeastern University redid the study in 2017.

Their figures show that 22 percent of U.S. gun owners who acquired a gun in the past three years did so without a background check.

So the "40 percent" figure Bernie Sanders quoted just last week is out of date.

We reached out to his office to find out whether the Vermont senator knew.

"[Senator Sanders] provided the best information he had at the time. It appears the number he cited is outdated," Josh Miller-Lewis, Communications Director for Senator Sanders said. "But whether its 40 percent of 22 percent of guns being acquired without a background check, million of Americans still obtain guns without background checks. That's absurd."

Another issue with the 1994 study, it's sample size was miniscule. Only 251 gun owners answered their phone survey.

About 40 percent of adults in American reported having a gun in their home, according to Gallup and the Pew Research Center.