Guns And Violence

It appears that in the fight against insane violence in this country V.P. Joe Biden will not even attempt to suggest the restriction of the sale of so-called assault weapons even though, according to HuffPost, “The president has been clear that Congress should reinstate the assault weapons ban and that avoiding this issue just because it’s been politically difficult in the past is not an option.” The results of Biden’s discussions with various groups interested in promoting or defeating tighter gun legislation will lack that one rather important item as the following news item attests:

Vice President Joe Biden announced Thursday that he will recommend new gun control measures to President Barack Obama, which include more comprehensive background checks on gun buyers and limits on the sizes of ammunition magazines. The proposal could lead to the most significant move on guns in 20 years, but one regulation highly coveted by gun control advocates was notably missing: a ban on assault weapons.

Apparently Biden and his group have decided that such an attempt would be an exercise in futility. The sale of such weapons has grown exponentially since the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut and the Vice President seems to be retreating from one rather important feature of any viable gun control legislation because it would simply mean spitting into the wind. Coincidentally, or not so coincidentally, the NRA announced recently that their membership has grown by 100,000 members since the Newtown shootings. As a result the NRA has been flexing its considerable muscle — and has apparently done so effectively.

So unless the president effectively intervenes, the final results of these recommendations by Joe Biden’s group, assuming that there will be some sort of legislation forthcoming, will not really move this country in the direction of sanity; we will remain an armed camp waiting for the slightest excuse to pull the trigger and take out someone we regard as particularly nasty. This does not bode well. We might do well to reflect on the nature of violence.

I can think of no one better to think with on this topic than Hannah Arendt who wrote a book on the subject in the late 60s because she saw that this country was headed in the direction of increasing violence and she sought to understand why and whether or not something could be done to prevent it. She concluded that, contrary to widespread opinion at the time, violence is the result of a sense of powerlessness. When a person or a group begins to feel it is losing power it resorts to violence. The solution, as she saw it, is for groups to take action, to become more involved. This is an interesting notion and one worth pondering.

It is decidedly the case that an increasing number of people in this country feel this sense of powerlessness and disinterest. As the country grows more populous, problems loom larger and solutions farther away, debt becomes an increasing fact of life, and the government depressingly inept, the citizens of this country do indeed have grounds for feeling powerless: what is a person to do? How do we get out of the bind we are in? These questions start to press in on every side. Couple this with the fact that we see violence all around us and the message we get from TV and the movies is that the way to solve problems is to pull out a gun and shoot someone and it would seem probable that violence is a likely alternative for a growing numbers of people.

Thus, it would seem, this nation is increasingly becoming an armed camp that finds violence an acceptable alternative. The government might choose to increase citizen involvement in governance and deal directly with the problems that face the majority of people on Main Street in order to reduce the sense of powerlessness. This would accord with Arendt’s suggestion. But that seems unlikely. We can expect, then, that violence will increase rather than decrease — especially in light of the fact that whatever laws might result from this government’s feeble attempts to halt the sales of violent weapons will fall far short of where any sane person would want them to fall.

At a time when we should be thinking of the sternest possible steps to curb violence it seems we are to be handed a band-aid. Unless the president can persuade a reluctant Congress to do the right thing we are in for more rough times. Hold on to your hats!.