“Amen, Brother!”: Layers of Hypocrisy Mark Biden’s Visit to VCU

photo copyright Richmond Times Dispatch

photo copyright Richmond Times Dispatch

Layer 1: A Table That’s Round?
I heard about Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond only two days before he showed up. He is currently on a whirlwind national tour with some other members of the administration to drum up support for their gun control policies, and Virginia was hardly a state he could afford to pass up. The press billed it as a “roundtable discussion”, but everyone in attendance had been preselected for their agreement on all the issues in question, and there were no meaningful policy discussions or disagreements to be had.

The public had no way of voicing input, and were mostly barred from the event. In fact, the media were only allowed to be present during a small portion of the short meeting – just long enough for the video cameras to catch a few staged sound bytes. The importance of the event for the administration was not what actually happened there, but to continue a directive that has been (successfully) implemented since Newtown: Keep gun control in the news, both nationally and locally.

Which is to say that Biden’s visit was, for all intents and purposes, a PR campaign.

Strangely enough (or perhaps not strangely at all), the federal officials surrounding Vice President Biden in that room would have had some disagreements with the Obama administration’s push for gun control… during their campaign seasons.

During her 2002 run for governor of Kansas, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius stated that she strongly supported “every Kansan’s second amendment right to bear arms. And, more than that… the Kansas Constitution which provides even greater rights for gun owners.”
Almost immediately after being elected, she would – twice – veto a basic concealed carry law that would have allowed citizens to carry concealed weapons after obtaining a state permit and passing an FBI background check, leaving Kansas one of only four states without any form of a conceal-carry law. (Only four days after the second veto, it was overturned in the Kansas Senate by a 30-10 vote, and in the House of Representatives by vote of 91-33.)

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano had an even more noteworthy flip-flop on gun control policy. In her 2002 gubernatorial run in Arizona, she had a textbook gun-rights approach:
“My position on the 2nd Amendment is simple: existing laws related to firearms and their possession are a sufficient framework by which to ensure the safety of all Arizonans. Rather than focusing on new legislation, we must first be vigilant in our enforcement of the laws that are on the books.”

In a recent statement about the many, broad legislation changes proposed by the Obama administration – including bans on firearms with particular aesthetic styles and capacities – she affirmed her total support of them all. Which is why she got to accompany Biden.

The first layer of hypocrisy was what this event represented: a group of politicians who had claimed opposition to gun control legislation now spending taxpayer dollars to travel around talking (almost entirely to each other) about the importance of gun control legislation.

So when the news of this shindig reached me, I decided to drop in with my own message.

Layer 2: Walking the Circle
The frigid wind chill froze my fingers stiff around the sign as I began to circle the building where Biden and his entourage were talking about how much they agreed with each other. As expected, the number of state police, unmarked and federal vehicles was nearly impossible to count. I was turned away from the Commons building at one entrance, but was able to walk in the other, displaying my sign for the throngs of police, students who wanted to get in but couldn’t, and students who couldn’t have cared less. I continued in this cycle – walking around the building, then inside, around the building, then inside.

One person stopped me to snap a photo with their iPhone. A girl in a passing car playfully shaped her fingers into a gun and pointed it at me, winking. A couple of students read the sign and looked terribly confused, as if the idea of leftists appreciating the second amendment took some time to wrap their minds around.

But the most interesting reactions came from the working folks. I passed a multi-racial group of electricians working near the compass. They nodded at me and one said, “Amen, brother.” I smiled and nodded back.

A block away I passed a line of police/fed vehicles a quarter mile long. One large van was filled with state police, with another female officer standing outside, leaning against the open side door. As I came closer, a voice shouted from the dimly lit vehicle, “Amen, brother!” The female officer turned and smiled at me as I passed, and I again returned the gesture.

I have talked to a number of police officers about gun control legislation. While some have been supportive of changes to laws involving procedural matters such as the sharing of background check info and other similar aspects, I have yet to meet one who supports a ban on any weapon or magazine capacity. While being interrogated after my arrest at a protest in Washington D.C., one officer ended up venting to me about the District’s gun ban, infuriated after having seen the effects of a populace left without a way to defend itself.

Police in the state of New York have even more reason to be upset. Governor Cuomo, who has called for the outright forcible confiscation of weapons, recently wrote the most restrictive gun control policy in the nation, limiting the round capacity of all firearms to 7 rounds. (For those who are not familiar, that is less than half of the standard capacity of most 9mm handguns.) The legislation was written in only two days of hasty, secret meetings without any disclosure or debate. So hastily was the legislation composed that it does not provide any exemptions for police.

Which is to say that every police officer in New York state is now a felon.

In response to the NRA’s suggestion that the presence of a police officer in schools might deter would-be shooters, the New York legislation also included restrictions on any firearms on school property. Assemblyman Al Graf has since relayed a story of a school security guard that threatened to arrest a police officer who was picking up his child while wearing his holstered service pistol.

No wonder law enforcement officials all across the country are refusing to enforce any new gun control legislation.

The second layer of hypocrisy inherent to Biden’s visit was so obvious that you could almost miss it: Every person sitting in that room to talk about the ways that guns make us less safe was surrounded, mobbed, fortified by more than a hundred guns. On school property. Meanwhile, the very armed people guarding those who were attempting to limit gun rights were openly showing their disapproval of that very limitation. The irony is almost too complex to state succinctly.

Layer 3: Selective Perception
It was my second time circling inside the Commons building that my eye caught the latest issue of Commonwealth Times, VCU’s school paper. The cover story: Praise and recognition for VCU’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Research Lab, which is developing the next generation of drone warfare.

Not even Fox News could miss the third layer of hypocrisy.


As a president stands ready to enact legislation to ban weapons, as he parades schoolchildren in front of the cameras to talk about their safety, he kills almost 200 of them overseas, two of whom were American. What is left to say about this? How can we even conquer a cognitive dissonance this profound?

On the property of a school that bans firearms while developing weapons that kill children, hundreds of firearms guard people talking about the importance of banning firearms… while those very armed guards openly reject the banning of firearms. Another day in America.


12 Responses to ““Amen, Brother!”: Layers of Hypocrisy Mark Biden’s Visit to VCU

  1. Wow, you nailed it. Thanks for braving the cold and succinctly stating your observations.

  2. As a friend of law enforcement officials in both Ohio and Wisconsin I would much rather see a law written by those walking the beat and investigating the crimes, based on the most effective and proven methods. Like too many laws, this one seems to be more about being politically correct, than actually creating a better, safer America.

    • John Richmond Says:

      I too am a friend, a brother in fact, of a Midwestern policeman. I understand, Debra, that you’re not a law enforcement officer based on your post (though sometimes things can be misread).

      What laws would you like to see written?

      I’ll tip my hand by saying that I disagree with my brother’s strong gun rights position. I’m very much for most of what the Biden Commission proposes, minus the assault weapons ban (which really is about 98% PR). What laws would you like to see written? I really like background checks on all sales (making person to person deals illegal), tightenng reporting requirements on those with mental illness, the magazine size restriction, and lifting the lawsuit protection for gun manufacturers myself. I think a one-gun per month limit on purchases also worked when we had it in Va. Perhaps a new Project Exile also?

      What do you think? (and you too, Kontra, hope you read this as well as my longer post directly yo you).

  3. Kontra, thank you for caring enough about this issue to share your beliefs and the facts about guns, gun violence, and gun control.

  4. Good stuff, well-written and really gets to the heart of the matter.

  5. VP Joe Biden is FUCKING RETARD! Racist shit bag.

  6. David Jones Says:

    I have often said that Bob Beckel was my favorite liberal …. No more. Your common sense approach to this issue should be compelling to all. Good hearted folks have the right to disagree .. They just don’t have the right to be uninformed. Thank you for your wisdom.

    • John Richmond Says:

      Unfortunately, David, I have yet to see Kontra’s plan for reducing gun deaths here. I count him as a friend (I hope his feeling is mutual), we have at least 95% agreement on the kind of world we want to see, and I understand where he is coming from and that it is consistent with his ethical and political philosophy. Nevertheless, guns, the fact that our murder rate is one of the higher ones in the OECD, and that we have more gun deaths than at least the next top nine countries combined, represent a major blind spot in the anarchist and pro-gun movements. I find it seriously denergizing to see every small proposal to reduce gun deaths criticized without a plan offered in response that will work in 10 years, or without a total anti-racist, anti-oppression victory. Kontra is always very practical, but this has the feeling of a tactical position to the right even of my brother (a gun enthusiast, NRA-member cop). In the infamous words of asshole Bill O’Reilly, What say you?

      • David Jones Says:

        You’re right … I can’t stand O’Reilly either.
        I keep telling my wife, “when you throw the
        shoe at the TV, use the slippers not the clogs”

      • There have been plenty of alternate suggestions put forth. The left has refused to argue their validity and instead defaults to calling an idea “crazy” because it’s not theirs.

        True admonishment of violent crime takes hard-nosed, dangerous routing-out of criminals. Gun deaths in this country are overwhelmingly gang and drug related crimes in the heart of this nation’s urban areas. That is what realists like me (I can’t speak for Kontra) propose…get in there, shoot bad guys, take their drugs and guns and lock them away for good. Kansas City Gun Experiment. Google it.

        As for school shootings (if that is what you really want to reduce – innocent death), we have suggesting abolishing Gun Free Zones among many other things alternate to “moar gun lawz!” I have yet to hear a sound argument that lends one iota of value to such an asinine idea of “invisible criminal force fields.”

  7. John Richmond Says:

    The alternative suggestions are not here. Kontra simply debunks proposals without offering any of his own. There is a reason we have more gun deaths than at least the next nine countries in the OECD combined. Our gun ownership rate is more than twice the rate of the next highest country (about 89 guns per 100 population, vs. about 44 for Finland, 37 for Switzerland, and 30-32 for Canada, Norway, and France. Yes, mass murders and shootings have happened in these countries. They seem much rarer.)

    If you read my initial post, nowhere do I say anything about gun free zones. I am a realist, however, and I know that having guns where I work, in a psychiatric hospital for children, would be mildly problematic. We ask even police officers who come in to check their guns at the door because who knows what would happen if a child got ahold of their gun. We have kids that would go after those guns, partly because their kids and partly because while they’re having problems they are not experiencing their finest hour.

    Places where guns are ubiquitous, and which seem to require armed guards 24-7, exist. They are called Somalia, Afghanistan, perhaps Mexico (where it is estimated that as much as 70% of the guns come from the US). Perhaps I am naive, but I refuse to believe we have gone that far toward being a Third World country. If everyone had to start toting around guns for self-defense, that would be the surest sign that civilization had collapsed. For now, I will decline to subsidize the NRA and gun companies on the off chance that might happen.

    As for how gun deaths happen, the majority are suicides, as Kontra has pointed out to me in another forum and perhaps here. The assertion that most deaths are caused by gang-bangers and drug dealers seems vaguely racist and offensive, though there is no denying that being involved in the drug trade ups one’s chances of being killed. I have never myself needed a gun, partly due to luck and partly because I avoid known high-crime areas after about 9 or 10pm at night. As I tell my students, one can greatly reduce one’s chances of being a crime victim in Richmond if one does not buy or sell drugs and if one avoids being out by oneself late at night. Kontra and I have at least three mutual friends who have been held up; having a gun would not have helped in any of their situations and they are all staunchly for more regulation of guns.

    I do find though that increasingly I’m thinking on two tracks, the representative democracy track and the anarchist/civilizational collapse track. For the latter, while an anarchist world does not necessarily entail civilizational collapse, many of the policy implications are similar. For guns, preparation for an anarchist world would require the freest access possible to the most weapons for self-defense against vigilante groups, as happened especially to black citizens in New Orleans after Katrina, for instance, when they were terrorized by both authorities and white vigilante militias. Gun policies of mostly Republican, mostly rural states generally seem to facilitate this state of affairs, and Virginia seems closer to this end of the scale. Unregulated access to guns without consequence has no place in a representative democracy of the 21st century because guns are not how we resolve our disputes and defend ourselves. We place some faith in legitimate, trained responsible law enforcement officials such as my brother to deescalate situations that go beyond the training that it is possible for most citizens to realistically get. It’s messy sometimes, but better than might makes right.

    The Senate’s recent vote against even tightening background check requirements is a sure sign of US civilizational collapse.

    B, if you, Kontra, and my brother win me to your side of the gun regulation debate, I will be an anarchist. To me a conservative, hierarchical society with many guns can only be evil and/or chaotic. That is where Republicans are leading us. If there is a way to preserve representative democracy, the Democratic approach is the only one that I think will work. I’m becoming disappointed in them on multiple levels as well.

    • Eliminating GFZs is an alternate solution my side of the debate has presented. I brought it up as a counter example to your claim that people like Kontra don’t offer solutions; only criticisms. But the left refuses to argue policy change on the grounds of its real merit and instead opts for dismissive emotion based on vivid imagery and feelings.

      How is what I said offensive? Gun-related homicide is an urban gang/drug problem. Not rural. Most rural areas in America see less gun murder than many gun-ban countries’ national averages. The City of Chicago has 3X more gun murders in a year than CO, WY, UT, and MT COMBINED and it has 1/4th the population of those states! The numbers are what they are: urban areas are crime zones – you said it yourself: avoid them. You are the only one putting racial connotations into my statements.

      People like you make a huge jump in processed logic to claim that ownership of a gun is some crazy, fringe, anarchistic, behavior:

      “If everyone had to start toting around guns for self-defense, that would be the surest sign that civilization had collapsed.”

      There are awful people out there. That will never go away and society hasn’t collapsed. I own a firearm for the same reason I have a fire extinguisher in my kitchen. I’m not “paranoid” about fires…I’m simply prepared to fight them in that unlikely scenario and I’m aware that emergency response is 10 minutes away when seconds matter.

      It’s a rather childish thing to argue about but I guess if society plunged into anarchism then I will be damn glad I have guns and training.

      And don’t lose your head about that background check bill. It was pretty worthless anyway…and I support background checks as long as they are free, quick, and non-intrusive into one’s privacy. I can get the background check rate on private sales up to 95% without even passing a law. Provide the means for private sellers to run free, instant, accurate checks at their option. I know literally hundreds of gun owners. Not a single one of them would miss out on a chance to cover their ass. People can bitch and moan all they want about paying for “our” BCs but if this is something THEY want for the safety of EVERYONE, then EVERYONE shares the cost.

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