Abetting Gavin Newsom's Big Lie

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on July 27, 2016

Last week, Politifact's California arm issued a rating for Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom's "Safety for All" group.

Abetting Gavin Newsom's Lies
The statement in question.

Politifact runs the numbers and it turns out that by cobbling together a bunch of Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL) categories you can get a number that is more than 2x the number of McDonalds franchisees in the state.

Calling all these FFLs "gun dealers" may be a little more problematic than Newsom's group and Politifact acknowledge. For example, just about anyone can get an FFL03 license (I have one) that is for collectors of "Curio and Relic" firearms. To actually make that license reasonably useful in California, you also need to get a Certificate of Eligibility from the state Department of Justice.

I have both of these documents and I don't think anyone would really consider me a "firearms dealer." The total number of firearms I've sold in my lifetime: Zero.

This is mostly a quibble. The correct response to this statement is: "So what?" What does that statement have to do with the price of tea in China?

Newsom tweeted out a link to Politifact's "True" rating and characterized it in an incredibly dishonest (and hilariously inaccurate) way.

Abetting Gavin Newsom's Lies
Gavin Newsom's big lie.

That's not the statement Politifact fact-checked. It's not even close.

The idea that there being more retail outlets (and Politifact's analysis notes that many of these "gun dealers" don't have a storefront) means that something is easier to purchase or a service is easier to get is false.

I suspect that if you looked at licensed auto repair facilities, that there are far more of them then there are McDonald's restaurants. Is it easier and quicker to get your transmission re-built than it is to get a Happy Meal?

There are probably more licensed contractors than there are McDonald's franchises. Does that mean it's easier to get your house re-wired or an addition built than it is to get a Happy Meal?

The answer to all these examples (and more) is obviously "no." As it is with getting a gun. A Happy Meal doesn't require you to fill out a long federal form. It doesn't require you to take and pass a test. It doesn't require you to undergo a background check. It doesn't require you to wait 10 days to take possession of your Happy Meal.

If Politifact rated Newsom's tweet, it should get a "Pants on Fire."

Which brings me back to the question some of you may be asking: "Why did I wait a week to write this post?"

I wanted to see if Politifact would do anything about Newsom's tweet. After all, it's their reporting that's being misused.

And a week later? Nothing new from Politifact on the topic. I emailed the reporter on the original fact check and the editor Tuesday evening. As of press time I had not received a response to my query of whether they would be fact-checking Newsom's tweet.

This is a problem with Politifact and all its state-level affiliates: selection bias. Go over to politifactbias.com and do a search for "selection bias" and you'll see what I mean. There is no consistent standard for what statements by politicians or groups get checked by Politifact, so they choose the things that interest them.

This was the third fact-check Politifact California had done on gun control issues in the state this year. They rated another statement by Newsom's group "Mostly True," and one by the Firearms Policy Coalition as "Mostly False."

But Newsom's tweet is just begging for Politifact California to check it, since they're being used by Newsom. This is selection bias on crack.

By their silence thus far, I think it's pretty safe to say that Politifact isĀ abetting Gavin Newsom's big lie.

*UPDATE* It's worse than I thought. I neglected to go through Politifact California's Twitter feed before wrapping up this report. Looking through that feed, I come across this:

Abetting Gavin Newsom's Big Lie
Politifact RETWEETED the utterly false mischaracterization of Politifact's fact-check.

This is inexcusable.

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