PunditFact fact-checks the Oct. 4 Sunday shows
George Stephanopoulos questions Donald Trump about his plan to send back Syrian refugees if elected president on the Oct. 4, 2015, edition of ABC "This Week." (Screengrab) George Stephanopoulos questions Donald Trump about his plan to send back Syrian refugees if elected president on the Oct. 4, 2015, edition of ABC "This Week." (Screengrab)

George Stephanopoulos questions Donald Trump about his plan to send back Syrian refugees if elected president on the Oct. 4, 2015, edition of ABC "This Week." (Screengrab)

Joshua Gillin
By Joshua Gillin October 4, 2015
Linda Qiu
By Linda Qiu October 4, 2015
Katie Sanders
By Katie Sanders October 4, 2015

Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump defended his change in position on accepting refugees from Syria on Sunday, saying he has concerns about how many able-bodied men seem to be fleeing the war-torn nation.

"The migration was strange to me, because it seems like so many men," Trump said on ABC’s This Week. "There aren’t that many women, there aren’t that many children. It looked like mostly men, and they looked like strong men."

Host George Stephanopoulos interjected, saying "half the refugees are children." But Trump went on to say the admission of thousands of men arriving without documentation "could be ISIS. It could be the great Trojan Horse."

Trump, whose campaign did not respond for comment, is conflating his talking point over a couple of different issues and refugee populations. We rate the statement False.

Stephanopoulos was asking him about his changed position on Syrian refugees who would be coming to the United States. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees counts a total of more than 4 million Syrian refugees, and of those 4 million, 50.3 percent are female, and 51.1 percent are children (boys and girls) 17 years old or younger. In all, only 23.5 percent of refugees across the Middle East and North Africa being counted by the U.N. were men older than 18.

Geoffrey Mock, Syrian country specialist for Amnesty International USA, says Trump’s anecdote may have been referring to Europe’s mass influx of refugees and migrants, not the registered refugees in camps that Stephanopoulos was asking about.

Trump likely meant so-called "sea arrivals," refugees and migrants who cross the Mediterranean Sea to continental Europe. The U.N. counts almost 534,000 people who have crossed into Europe this year, with almost 3,000 dying during the journey. To Trump’s point, 69 percent of sea arrivals are men, and these are the people dominating headlines about the humanitarian crisis in Europe. Slightly more than half of them are from Syria, and many are undocumented.

But the problem with Trump’s statement is that none of the majority-male refugees and migrants in Europe are coming to the United States.

The U.N. has said 10 percent, or about 400,000, of the Syrian refugees in camps need to be resettled. President Barack Obama announced that in fiscal year 2016 (through Sept. 30), the United States would accept at least 10,000 refugees from Syria.

Those 10,000 aren’t necessarily the type of people who would be ISIS operatives as Trump fears, according to Mock.

"The priorities go to torture survivors, people with serious medical conditions, children and teens on their own, and women and children at risk," Mock said. The people selected undergo screening by state agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, and the process can take years.

Outdated gun statistic

As the country grapples with Thursday’s mass shooting at an Oregon community college, retired astronaut Mark Kelly is continuing his charge for stricter gun control.

Kelly is married to former U.S. Rep Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., who was severely injured in a 2011 mass shooting in Tucson that left 10 others dead. Following the assassination attempt, Kelly and Giffords created Americans for Responsible Solutions, a super PAC that supports gun control.  

"One thing is really clear. We sell 40 percent of our guns without a background check," Kelly said during CNN’s State of the Union.

Kelly’s statistic isn’t as clear as it sounds. We rate it Half True.  

The claim about lax background checks is based on a 1994 survey by Duke University’s Philip Cook and the University of Chicago’s Jens Ludwig. The survey was based on a small sample (251 people) and counted background checks on firearm purchases before the 1996 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, which required federal background checks on firearm purchases from licensed dealers, was enacted.

There’s debate on whether a 21-year-old statistic still holds up today. Cook and Ludwig have both said that no one knows the current percentage of guns sold without a background check.

Robert Spitzer, a SUNY Cortland political science professor and author of The Politics of Gun Control, noted that the background check statistic is "notoriously slippery," as gun sales that don’t go through a federally licensed seller are not subject to formal recordkeeping.

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PunditFact fact-checks the Oct. 4 Sunday shows