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