White House Press Secretary Jay Carney avoided acknowledging today that President Obama has been incorrectly using a 20-year-old statistic on background checks in his push for universal background checks.

President Obama has repeatedly said 40 percent of all gun sales don’t require a background check under current law, and Organizing for Action tweeted the claim last week as well, using the @BarackObama Twitter handle it runs.

But the numbers the White House is citing are several decades old and incorrectly cited, as The Washington Post reported last week, giving the claim a “three pinocchio” rating. The Post explains that while the White House has repeatedly said “40 percent of sales,” the study uses the number to refer to transactions, which includes gifts and inheritances as well as purchases.

The detail changes the results: when gifts, inheritances and prizes are accounted for, the same study shows 26.4 percent of people did not receive their gun through a federally license firearms dealer.

When a reporter called the him out on the claim this afternoon, Carney refused to address the misleading statistic.

“Jay, on the background checks, as you know, The Washington Post has now given the President three Pinocchios for using a statistic:  About 40 percent, I believe, of all gun purchases, he has said, are done without background checks,” the reporter said. “And it turns out that’s a study from a couple of decades ago. Is the White House pulling back from using that?  Do you have any regrets in making your case that this was a bogus stat?”

“Look, I think that a substantial number of purchases of weapons are achievable without background checks,” was Carney’s response.  “I mean, that’s a fact.  Everybody who has worked on this issue, Republicans and Democrats alike, understand that.  And simply making sure that the background check system does not have loopholes — giant loopholes that allow criminals and others who should not by law be permitted to buy a weapon to buy them — that is a basic, common-sense proposal that has enjoyed the support, at least rhetorically of legislators of both parties, in other words Republicans, not just Democrats, that is supported by more than 90 percent of the American people, and that must be voted on and must be passed and signed into law.

“This is a common-sense measure that takes not a single firearm away from a law-abiding citizen, that protects our Second Amendment rights, and that will help in the cause of reducing gun violence in America so that what happened in — that lives are saved — the kinds of lives that were lost in Newtown and Aurora and elsewhere.”