Obama: America's Gun Laws 'Don't Make Much Sense' and Anybody 'Can Buy Machine Guns'

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May 31, 2019

President Barack Obama said the United States' gun laws "don't make much sense" and claimed anybody "can buy machine guns" while speaking at VTEX Day 2019 in Brazil.

"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," Obama told the audience.

Contrary to the president's assertion, regulations make it difficult for anyone to own a machine gun. The Washington Free Beacon's Stephen Gutowski highlighted these regulations after the 2017 Las Vegas shooting.

"First, the sale of new fully-automatic firearms was effectively banned in 1986 under the Hughes Amendment. Fully-automatic firearms that were registered under the National Firearms Act before 1986 were grandfathered in & are still legal," Gutowski tweeted.

"However, in order to obtain a legal fully-automatic firearm you must apply to the ATF, pay a $200 tax, & register with the ATF," Gutowski continued.

"In practice, while there are several hundred thousand legally-registered fully-automatic firearms in the US, they're very hard to obtain. Beyond the registration process, which can take up to 9 months to complete, the price of fully-automatic firearms is extremely high," Gutowski noted.

In 2015, Obama said something similar to his remarks in Brazil by claiming "it's easier for you to buy a handgun and clips than it is for you to buy a fresh vegetable." A year later, he said "it is easier for a teenager to buy a Glock than get his hands on a computer or even a book." The Washington Post challenged Obama's claims about the ease of procuring a gun:

Literally speaking, not all states allow people under 21 years old to buy a handgun. And as far as we know, there's no minimum age or a background check required to get a book or use the computer for free at a public library.

The White House noted that in the context of the speech, Obama was speaking about the lack of opportunity and ready access to guns in many communities, particularly lower-income areas. It's accurate to say there are communities that lack education, employment and health-care resources. And it's fair to say that in some communities, there is ready access to illegally obtained guns for teens who can get them easily from a fellow gang member, friend or a family member — perhaps without even having to leave their home or their street.

But the president can make that point without resorting to such an exaggerated claim based in no real statistics, and which does nothing but distract the public.