Stopping “Gun Violence” With Background Checks?

By The Digger

Stopping “gun violence” with background checks; it’s a noble idea worthy of serious consideration. Or, it could be a steaming Pamplin pile* of bullshit served up by the disarmament sector (incorrectly labelled as “gun control advocates”). Josie Henderson, executive director of the Oregon Public Health Alliance, and Dr. James P. Scott, president of the National Physicians Alliance, argue that background checks can and will reduce “gun violence” in Oregon. Be advised that the use of the word “argue” should be taken in its broadest sense here. And, I call bullshit.

Without the aid of an internet search, can anyone name a single victim of the Clackamas Town Center shooting? I can’t, and I’m not ashamed. I’m human. Humans can’t mourn everyone who meets a tragic demise. We’d be clinically insane within a week if we bore strong emotional ties to every single human on Earth. Henderson and Scott begin their essay Block gun violence with background checks with the rhetorical flourish that all of us still mourn this event. Waving the bloody shirt is always a tactic best employed when facts don’t support one’s argument. In this instance, that tactic is a symptom of a much deeper problem.

Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The problem to which I refer is America’s, and Oregon’s, inability to have an honest discussion about reality. The background check debate is useless, and Oregon already has background checks on gun purchases. I know; it costs me an extra fifteen dollars every time I add to my collection. Henderson and Scott pinpoint the reality in Oregon, and brush it aside in favor of the pursuit of a political orthodoxy that accomplishes little.

The report that they cite uses flawed data that attempts to correlate gun fatalities with gun laws. That data, partly provided by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, shows that New York, California, and Illinois are all theoretically better off than Oregon where gun violence is concerned. Is anyone convinced that the streets of New York, Chicago and Los Angeles are safer than Portland’s? Using a mind-numbing formula similar to the climate change “Hockey Stick,” the report attempts to show that more gun laws lead to less “gun violence.” For those wondering, I place “gun violence” within the parameters of quotation here not because I believe that gun violence does not exist, but because I do not believe that suicide should count as “gun violence,” as the disarmament sector does.

The report relies entirely on correlation of faulty numbers, and if we were to assume that simple correlation is a valid scientific support for policy, is it safe to assume that the Oregon Public Health Association will be advocating against vaccines, since there is an indisputable simple correlation between increased inoculations and the growth of autism diagnoses in the last ten years? Of course they’ll never make a moronic argument like that against vaccines, because it makes no sense. But they are more than willing to make such an argument in favor of steps toward disarmament because it’s convenient, and many people will buy it based on a limited knowledge of scientific rigor as applied to statistics, which is almost an oxymoron in itself. Remove the suicides from the statistical models, and not even correlation exists to support the ludicrous assertions of the report.

The most offensive statement that Henderson and Scott make is a rhetorical flourish of the “us versus them” variety. “Pundits may debate the efficacy of background checks, but research shows that background checks work.” As I’ve just outlined, the “research” shows no such thing. But those kooky pundits can be so misleading. This sentence is the soul – using that word in the most contorted context possible – of this Pamplin pile. It is nearly as intellectually offensive as “the science is settled.”

Sadly, however, that is not the furthest extent of the intellectual dishonesty in Henderson and Scott’s essay. In the paragraph prior to the citation of the spurious report, they demonstrate that eighty-two percent of Oregon’s “gun violence” is suicide. Suicide is usually the direct result of an acute mental health crisis. The fact is that mental health crises have a causal relationship with “gun violence,” not a correlation. If background checks were effective in preventing suicidal people from obtaining firearms, the background check would only insure that morphine, razor blades, or rope stand to have a precipitous decline in public approval ratings. That’s the problem with reality that Henderson and Scott blithely skim and ignore.

Why didn’t Henderson and Scott raise the alarm about a mental health issue responsible for eighty-two percent of “gun violence” in Oregon? The best answer to that question is that mental health is a far more complex and difficult discussion than guns. Guns, in the hands of law abiding citizens are tools. A butter knife in the hands of a person suffering from severe mental illness can be a lethal weapon. It’s easier to advocate against guns than it is to advocate for a person cursing, screaming, and defecating on the sidewalk.

Also, mental health crises delve into complex arguments about societal responsibility, liberty and involuntary incarceration. At what point is it necessary to deprive someone of his or her freedom in the interest of protecting his or her health? Should society even concern itself with the notion of preventing someone who wants to die from committing suicide? After all, euthanasia is legal in Oregon. Perhaps we should provide a more humane, thoughtful and much less messy way for a person to willingly terminate his or her status as a consumer/human resource.

I won’t be holding my breath in anticipation of that debate. Gun laws are a much more convenient discussion. And they’re all the rage among the hip these days. That’s usually the story with bullshit.

*A Pamplin Pile – Named in honor of Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr. – An offensive pile of bullshit that is published, archived and then allowed to remain unchallenged by any other rational arguments or divergent points of view. A phenomena previously reserved for the likes of Pravda, et. al.

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