Gov. Greg Abbott posted a tweet in 2015 expressing his chagrin at Texans seeking to buy fewer guns than Californians.
What Abbott tweeted: “I’m EMBARRASSED: Texas #2 in nation for new gun purchases, behind California.”
Embarrassment or not, the governor’s gun-purchase proclamation likely wasn’t accurate, the fact-checking PolitiFact Texas project found. The reporting team based at the Austin American-Statesman rated Abbott’s “#2” claim False.
Abbott’s tweet relied on a news blog post that, it turned out, misread counts of background check requests posted by a federal agency.
The blog post was headlined: “Texas request to buy guns tops 1 million for year.”
The blog post solely cited state-by-state counts of requests for federally required background checks associated with gun shopping—and those showed California vendors submitting more requests than counterparts in Texas, according to figures kept on the National Instant Criminal Background Check system. The background checks are sought to determine whether a person should be disqualified from buying a gun based on a range of matters, such as prior criminal history to mental health.
A footnote on the system’s state-by-state chart, though, warned against using the numbers to reach conclusions about guns purchased: “These statistics represent the number of firearm background checks initiated through the NICS. They do not represent the number of firearms sold. Based on varying state laws and purchase scenarios, a one-to-one correlation cannot be made between a firearm background check and a firearm sale.”
Moreover, a PolitiFact Texas adjustment of the counts of requested background checks for the respective populations of the 10 most-populous states shook up the seeming rankings, knocking Texas and California to No. 8 among those big states.
Another wrinkle: Any estimate of gun purchases by state would have been hindered by the unknown number of private purchases or gifts of guns not preceded by background checks.
A look this week at the latest NICS figures, indicating total background checks conducted state by state from January through October 2017, shows vendors in Florida and California each requesting nearly 1.3 million background checks in the 10 months with Texas entities seeking a little more than 1.2 million checks.
In the 10 months, there were far more background checks sought from vendors in Kentucky—more than 3.8 million, per the figures. In the first 10 months of 2017, Kentucky and Illinois saw more per-capita requests for background checks connected to gun shopping than Florida, Texas or California.
There’s an explanatory twist to Kentucky topping such counts. After the 2015 fact-check was published, a reader pointed out that Kentucky authorities perform background checks on concealed carry permit-holders on a monthly basis, as also noted at the time by a Kentucky TV station.
Abbott has posted four tweets about the Sutherland Springs shootings, three of them embracing prayer. He's not mentioned how Texas stands in gun purchases or requests for federal background checks.