Obama Falsely Implies His Gun Controls Could Have Stopped the Kalamazoo Shooter

Background checks do not affect murderers who are legally allowed to own guns.


White House

Speaking at a White House reception for the National Governors Association yesterday, President Obama mentioned the series of shootings that killed six people in Kalamazoo County, Michigan, on Saturday. "Earlier this year, I took some steps that will make it harder for dangerous people, like this individual, to buy a gun," he claimed. At this point there is no reason to believe that's true.

Obama's "executive actions" on gun control included a "clarification" of which gun sellers are "engaged in the business of selling firearms" and therefore must conduct background checks. But even if we assume that more gun buyers will undergo background checks as a result of that initiative (which is by no means assured), it is almost certainly irrelevant to the the case at hand.

The man charged in the Michigan attacks, Jason Dalton, had no criminal record, and he apparently was never compelled to undergo psychiatric treatment either. Police say he used a pistol in the attacks, and they found various other guns at his house. But according to the Associated Press, "there was no indication that he was prohibited from owning the weapons." If so, even the "universal background checks" that Obama wants Congress to require (covering all gun transfers, not just sales by federally licensed dealers) could not have stopped Dalton from buying the weapon he allegedly used to kill six people and wound two others.

Once again, Obama is presenting background checks as a solution to crimes they cannot possibly prevent: murders committed by people who are legally allowed to own guns, as is typically the case with mass shooters. The New York Times says Obama thinks "it should be harder for troubled people to obtain guns." But since there is no way to know in advance which people are "troubled" in a way that will lead them to shoot random strangers, there is no way to implement that policy without disarming millions of Americans who pose no such threat.