PolitiFact roundup: guns, tax bill, Obamacare

Recent claims PolitiFact checked out included a Georgia legislator’s claim that the Las Vegas mass killer’s use of a bump stock may have kept his death toll lower; President Trump’s characterization of a key Obamacare provision as “highly unpopular;” and a Democratic senator’s claim that Republicans haven’t followed usual, proper procedures for having their tax bill reviewed. Here are summaries of our findings. Full versions can be found at www.politifact.com.

“Many firearms experts determined the Las Vegas shooter’s use of a bump stock actually prevented more casualties and (injuries) due to its inconsistency, inaccuracy, and lack of control.”

— Georgia State Sen. Michael Williams on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017 in press release

We talked to five experts who said Williams is factually correct on one point about bump stocks: Because they use a weapon’s recoil to enable the user to fire rapidly and repeatedly, their use makes the weapon more difficult to control when firing. This decreases its accuracy.

Two experts supportive of gun rights, United States Concealed Carry Association president Tim Schmidt and lawyer John Pierce, agreed that a more accurate weapon could have hurt more people, but they needed more information about the crime to come to a conclusion. But three of the five experts said the rapid gunfire, not precise aim, is likely what made the Las Vegas shooting so devastating.

To be fair, Arthur Alphin, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and West Point graduate, told the Los Angeles Times that accuracy did matter, but so did the rapid fire. The weapon could have been held steady with a bipod, which was found in the gunman’s room.

Our ruling

Outside of a blog from a pro-gun rights group, we did not find “many firearms experts” making the argument Williams cited. We did learn that bump stocks tend to affect a weapon’s accuracy. But we found several firearms experts who attributed the high number of people injured and killed to the shooter’s ability to fire rapidly, which a bump stock would have amplified.

We rate this statement False.

Says the individual mandate is “highly unpopular.”

— President Donald Trump on Monday, Nov. 13, 2017 in a tweet

Polling shows it is the least popular of the Affordable Care Act’s changes, but how people feel about it depends on how you frame the question.

When asked simply if they like or don’t like the mandate, as many as two-thirds of the people say they don’t. A Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll found that 63 percent had an unfavorable opinion in November 2016. An Associated Press/NORC poll in January 2017 came back with 36 percent in favor, 13 percent who didn’t care one way or the other, and 50 percent who opposed it.

Broadly speaking, in the context of getting rid of the Affordable Care Act, most polls show that about half of the public opposes the mandate and about half supports it.

Obamacare has many moving parts that interact with each other. The individual mandate has a particularly strong tie to the law’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions. The pre-existing conditions protection is popular. In the November 2016 Kaiser poll, nearly 70 percent of the public supported that piece of the puzzle. But only 35 percent liked its evil twin, the individual mandate.

Our ruling

Public opinion about the individual mandate is not a simple black-and-white choice. As a leading expert explained, people might not love it, but they are willing to live with it.

We rate this claim Half True.

The Republican tax bill is “not being scored by the Congressional Budget Office, as it is traditionally.”

— Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., on Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017 in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union”

The CBO is Congress’ nonpartisan number-crunching office, best known for its detailed analyses of pending legislation.

However, there’s one exception to CBO’s role in vetting proposed legislation: tax bills. That duty falls instead to a similar, nonpartisan congressional office known as the Joint Committee on Taxation.

By the time Durbin had made this comment, the joint committee had already published analyses of the House version of the tax bill. As it happens, CBO has also published one analysis of the bill, addressing estimated deficits and debt. But even this is based heavily on the Joint Committee on Taxation’s work.

Our ruling

Under the most obvious interpretation of Durbin’s statement, Durbin is incorrect. The nonpartisan analysis for tax bills is actually a task handled by the Joint Committee on Taxation, and the committee has been actively analyzing the Republican tax bills.

We rate the statement False.

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