President Joe Biden made false claims about a variety of topics, notably including gun policy, during a series of official speeches and campaign remarks over the last two weeks.
He made at least five false claims related to guns, a subject on which he has repeatedly been inaccurate during his presidency. He also made a false claim about the extent of his support from environmental groups. And he used incorrect figures about the population of Africa, his own travel history and how much renewable energy Texas uses.
Here is a fact check of these claims, plus a fact check on a Biden exaggeration about guns. The White House declined to comment on Tuesday.
Beau Biden and red flag laws
In a Friday speech at the National Safer Communities Summit in Connecticut, Biden spoke of how a gun control law he signed in 2022 has provided federal funding for states to expand the use of gun control tools like “red flag” laws, which allow the courts to temporarily seize the guns of people who are deemed to be a danger to themselves or others. After mentioning red flag laws, Biden invoked his late son Beau Biden, who served as attorney general of Delaware, and said: “As my son was the first to enforce when he was attorney general.”
Facts First: Biden’s claim is false. Delaware did not have a red flag law when Beau Biden was state attorney general from 2007 to 2015. The legislation that created Delaware’s red flag program was named the Beau Biden Gun Violence Prevention Act, but it was passed in 2018, three years after Beau Biden died of brain cancer. (In 2013, Beau Biden had pushed for a similar bill, but it was rejected by the state Senate.) The president has previously said, correctly, that a Delaware red flag law was named after his son.
Delaware was far from the first state to enact a red flag law. Connecticut passed the first such state law in the country in 1999.
In the same speech, the president spoke confusingly of his administration’s effort to make it more difficult for Americans to purchase stabilizing braces, devices that are attached to the rear of pistols, most commonly AR-15-style pistols, and make it easier to fire them one-handed.
“Put a pistol on a brace, and it…turns into a gun,” Biden said. “Makes them where you can have a higher-caliber weapon – a higher-caliber bullet – coming out of that gun. It’s essentially turning it into a short-barreled rifle, which has been a weapon of choice by a number of mass shooters.”
Facts First: Biden’s claims that a stabilizing brace turns a pistol into a gun and increases the caliber of a gun or bullet are false. A pistol is, obviously, already a gun, and “a pistol brace does not have any effect on the caliber of ammunition that a gun fires or anything about the basic functioning of the gun itself,” said Stephen Gutowski, a CNN contributor who is the founder of the gun policy and politics website The Reload.
Biden’s assertion that the addition of a stabilizing brace can “essentially” turn a pistol into a short-barreled rifle is subjective; it’s the same argument his administration’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has made in support of its attempt to subject the braces to new controls. The administration’s regulatory effort is being challenged in the courts by gun rights advocates.
Gun manufacturers and lawsuits
Repeating a claim he made in his 2022 State of the Union address and on other occasions, Biden said at a campaign fundraiser in California on Monday: “The only industry in America you can’t sue is the – is the gun manufacturers.”
Facts First: Biden’s claim is false, as CNN and other fact-checkers have previously noted. Gun manufacturers are not entirely exempt from being sued, nor are they the only industry with some liability protections. Notably, there are significant liability protections for vaccine manufacturers and, at present, for people and entities involved in making, distributing or administering Covid-19 countermeasures such as vaccines, tests and treatments.
Under the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, gun manufacturers cannot be held liable for the use of their products in crimes. However, gun manufacturers can still be held liable for (and thus sued for) a range of things, including negligence, breach of contract regarding the purchase of a gun or certain damages from defects in the design of a gun.
In 2019, the Supreme Court allowed a lawsuit against gun manufacturer Remington Arms Co. to continue. The plaintiffs, a survivor and the families of nine other victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting, wanted to hold the company – which manufactured the semi-automatic rifle that was used in the 2012 killing – partly responsible by targeting the company’s marketing practices, another area where gun manufacturers can be held liable. In 2022, those families reached a $73 million settlement with the company and its four insurers.
There are also more recent lawsuits against gun manufacturers. For example, the parents of some of the victims and survivors of the 2022 massacre at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, have sued over the marketing practices of the company that made the gun used by the killer. Another suit, filed by the government of Buffalo, New York, in December over gun violence in the city, alleges that the actions of several gun manufacturers and distributors have endangered public health and safety. It is unclear how those lawsuits will fare in the courts.
– Holmes Lybrand contributed to this item.
The NRA and lawsuits
At a campaign fundraiser in California on Tuesday, Biden said the National Rifle Association, the prominent gun rights advocacy organization, itself cannot be sued.
“And the fact that the NRA has such overwhelming power – you know, the NRA is the only outfit in the nation that we cannot sue as an institution,” Biden said. “They got – they – before this – I became president, they passed legislation saying you can’t sue them. Imagine had that been the case with tobacco companies.”
Facts First: Biden’s claim is false. While gun manufacturers have liability protections, no law was ever passed to forbid lawsuits against the NRA. The NRA has faced a variety of lawsuits in recent years.
At the same Tuesday fundraiser in California, Biden said that he taught the Second Amendment in law school, “And guess what? It doesn’t say that you can own any weapon you want. It says there are certain weapons that you just can’t own.” One example Biden cited was this: “You can’t own a machine gun.”
Facts First: Biden’s claim is false. The Second Amendment does not explicitly say people cannot own certain weapons – and the courts have not interpreted it to forbid machine guns. In fact, with some exceptions, people in more than two-thirds of states are allowed to own and buy fully automatic machine guns as long as those guns were legally registered and possessed prior to May 19, 1986, the day President Ronald Reagan signed a major gun law. There were more than 700,000 legally registered machine guns in the US as of May 2021, according to official federal data.
Federal law imposes significant national restrictions on machine gun purchases, and the fact that there is a limited pool of pre-May 19, 1986 machine guns means that buying these guns tends to be expensive – regularly into the tens of thousands of dollars. But for Americans in most of the country, Biden’s claim that you simply “can’t” own a machine gun, period, is not true.
“It’s not easy to obtain a fully automatic machine gun today, I don’t want to give that impression – but it is certainly legal. And it’s always been legal,” Gutowski said in March, when Biden previously made this claim about machine guns.
California, where Biden made this remark on Tuesday, has strict laws restricting machine guns, but there is a legal process even there to apply for a state permit to possess one.
The ‘boyfriend loophole’
In the Friday speech to the National Safer Communities Summit, Biden said “we fought like hell to close the so-called boyfriend loophole” that had allowed people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence to buy and possess guns if the victim was not someone they were married to, living with or had a child with. Biden then said that now “we finally can say that those convicted of domestic violence abuse against their girlfriend or boyfriend cannot buy a firearm, period.”
Facts First: Biden’s categorical claim that such offenders now “cannot buy a firearm, period” is an exaggeration, though Biden did sign a law in 2022 that made significant progress in closing the “boyfriend loophole.” That 2022 law added “dating” partners to the list of misdemeanor domestic violence offenders who are generally prohibited from gun purchases – but in a concession demanded by Republicans, the law says these offenders can buy a gun five years after their first conviction or completion of their sentence, whichever comes later, if they do not reoffend in the interim.
It’s also worth noting that the law’s new restriction on dating partners applies only to people who committed the domestic violence against a someone with whom they were in or “recently” had been in a “continuing” and “serious” romantic or intimate relationship. In other words, it omits people whose offense was against partners from their past or someone they dated casually.
Marium Durrani, vice president of policy at the National Domestic Violence Hotline, said there are “definitely some gaps” in the law, “so it’s not a blanket end-all be-all,” but she said it is “really a step in the right direction.”
Biden said at a campaign rally in Philadelphia on Saturday: “Let me just say one thing very seriously. You know, I think this is the first time – and I’ve been around, as I said, a while – in history where, last week, every single environmental organization endorsed me.”
Facts First: It’s not true that every single environmental organization had endorsed Biden. Four major environmental organizations did endorse him the week prior, the first time they had issued a joint endorsement, but other well-known environmental organizations have not yet endorsed in the presidential election.
The four groups that endorsed Biden together in mid-June were the Sierra Club, NextGen PAC, and the campaign arms of the League of Conservation Voters and the Natural Resources Defense Council. That is not a complete list of every single environmental group in the country. For example, Environmental Defense Fund, The Nature Conservancy, the National Audubon Society, Earthjustice and Greenpeace, in addition to some lesser-known groups, have not issued presidential endorsements to date.
Biden’s claim of an endorsement from every environmental group comes amid frustration from some activists over his recent approvals of fossil fuel projects.
In official speeches last Tuesday and last Wednesday and at a press conference the week prior, Biden claimed that Africa’s population would soon reach 1 billion. “You know, soon – soon, Africa will have 1 billion people,” he said last Wednesday.
Facts First: This is false. Africa’s population exceeded 1 billion in 2009, according to United Nations figures; it is now more than 1.4 billion. Sub-Saharan Africa alone has a population of more than 1.1 billion.
At a campaign fundraiser in Connecticut on Friday, Biden spoke about reading recent news articles about the use of renewable energy sources in Texas. He said, “I think it’s 70% of all their energy produced by solar and wind because it is significantly cheaper. Cheaper. Cheaper.”
Facts First: Biden’s “70%” figure is not close to correct. The federal Energy Information Administration projected late last year that Texas would meet 37% of its electricity demand in 2023 with wind and solar power, up from 30% in 2022.
Texas has indeed been a leader in renewable energy, particularly wind power, but the state is far from getting more than two-thirds of its energy from wind and solar alone. The organization that provides electricity to 90% of the state has a web page where you can see its current energy mix in real time; when we looked on Wednesday afternoon, during a heat wave, the mix included 15.8% solar, 10.2% wind and 6.6% nuclear, while 67.1% was natural gas or coal and lignite.
In his Friday speech at the National Safer Communities Summit, Biden made a muddled claim about his past visits to Afghanistan and Iraq – saying that “you know, I spent a lot of time as president, and I spent 30-some times – visits – many more days in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
Facts First: Biden’s claim that he has visited Afghanistan and Iraq “30-some times” is false – the latest in a long-running series of exaggerations about his visits to the two countries. His presidential campaign said in 2019 that he made 21 visits to these countries, but he has since continued to put the figure in the 30s. And he has not visited either country “as president.”
At another campaign fundraiser in California on Monday, Biden reprised a familiar claim about his travels with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who is, like him, a former vice president.
“It wasn’t appropriate for Barack to be able to spend a lot of time getting to know him, so it was an assignment I was given. And I traveled 17,000 miles with him, usually one on one,” Biden said.
Facts First: Biden’s “17,000 miles” claim remains false. Biden has not traveled anywhere close to 17,000 miles with Xi, though they have indeed spent lots of time together. This is one of Biden’s most common false claims as president, a figure he has repeated over and over in speeches despite numerous fact checks.
Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler noted in 2021 that Biden and Xi often did not even travel parallel routes to their gatherings, let alone physically travel together. The only apparent way to get Biden’s mileage past 17,000, Kessler found, is to add the length of Biden’s flight journeys between Washington and Beijing, during which Xi was not with him.
A White House official told CNN in early 2021 that Biden was adding up his “total travel back and forth” for meetings with Xi. But that is very different than traveling “with him” as Biden keeps saying, especially in the context of his boasts about how well he knows Xi. Biden has had more than enough time to make his language more precise.