The tiresome obsession with trivia and simple mistakes

When Joe Biden claimed that “150 million people have been killed since 2007” by gun violence, many on the Right had a lot of fun at his expense. But there is both a broader and a more narrow issue here. I will defend and attack Biden on this issue.

First, the broader issue: This obsession with making sure politicians can answer trivia questions is absurd, as is the rush to condemn and mock over a simple mistake. It is obvious that Biden intended to say that 150 thousand people had been killed by gun violence since 2007. This is not evidence of senility or dishonesty. This is someone using the wrong word while speaking off the cuff. Do you know who else does that? Donald Trump. Do you know who else does that? Every single person who has ever lived.We have all used the wrong word at times when we meant something else. This does not mean we are dishonest or stupid. It means we are human.

Folks, I do not like Joe Biden. Please stop making me defend him.

Now, on to where Biden was wrong: The 150,000 statistic is misleading and dishonest, and Biden knows it. That is because the majority of firearm deaths are by suicide, and the number Biden cited (or attempted to cite) includes those suicides. We can and should discuss suicide prevention, but the fact that over 20,000 people a year murder themselves does not make me, my family or anyone else less safe. If we take away all of the guns, deeply depressed people will find a way to murder themselves. Biden is not the only person to dishonestly include suicides in gun violence statistics, but that dishonesty is certainly a strike against making this man President of these United States.

It is the latter issue that Republicans should have attacked, not the former. Mocking Biden for using the wrong word is childish and petty. Exposing his deep dishonesty on gun violence statistics shows that he is guilty of fearmongering and exploiting the pain of suicidal people to gain traction on an anti-gun agenda. That actually requires making an argument, rather than pointing to an inadvertent word choice. The conservative movement needs to stop being lazy, and defend freedom with stronger arguments.