Our Empathic Nature

The Altruistic Side of Evolutionary Psychology

Are Republican Leaders Hostages?

Does fear of violence against themselves & their families explain their silence?

I have been watching, listening, feeling the air around the “Republican” response to limitations on guns, magazine size, serious background checks, research by NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health) on factors involved in our epidemic of gun violence, and other reasonable steps proposed by the President, and exemplified by the New York State Congress, Senate and Governor. Puzzled by how few Republican leaders are stepping up to the plate and supporting gun reform in the face of the far right gun advocates, I began to think about the psychology that might be going on, instead of politics and political power.

The commonly heard explanation from liberals and the left is that these historically responsible, educated representatives of states around the country are afraid if they in any way counter the NRA, or it’s constituency, or their own constituency when they are not identical, they will lose their next elections, and therefore, they’ll lose their jobs, income, free medical care, and perhaps as important, social status.

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 But something does not make sense in this explanation. Republican leaders are often family men and women, who care deeply for their children. They want to protect their children. They can’t like absolute “lunatics” or seriously disturbed psychotic people driven by internal voices telling them a room of kids is in the hands of the devil and the right thing to do is to shoot them, getting easy access to weapons and ammunition. They have, at least in the past, had respect for military leaders like retired General Stanley McChrystal and 4-Star General and Secretary of State Colin Powell who are now publicly making a strong case for a ban on military-type weapons in the hands of private citizens, with little or no background check. These congressional leaders are not stupid. They know they won’t be protecting their wives and children by leaving them with military assault weapons. They also know that public shootings are increasingly common: Schools, shopping malls, movie theaters.

 I’m not so sure they are selfishly trying to be sure they get re-elected and hold on to their jobs. I’ve been wondering if behind the scenes, they are afraid of the violence of their “constituency” and fear, should they not support the rhetoric of anti-gun reform groups, led by the NRA, they may themselves risk getting assassinated. Perhaps some are imitating, out of loyalty, fathers or grandfathers who were fierce “Second Amendment” gun users. Perhaps this same loyalty has them unable to be trusting of a “Black President.” But common sense is common sense, and something right now defies it. Are our Republican leaders, at least many of them, afraid of the militant right gun people in their states, who are already threatening “killing” and violence. If a Republican leader is literally fearful that his children, his wife and himself may be in real danger should they defy the gun advocates, they are indeed true hostages, the kind being held with fear of murder. And should this be part of the problem, the US congress as a whole is also true hostages, and in turn, we, the American people are being held hostage.

Perhaps these threats of violence, threats of a "civil war," threats of impeachment, are effecting Republican government representatives; they may be frightened for their own and their families safety. The job may be finding a way to provide them with greater protection, so anti-gun reform extremists are blocked from physically endagering Republican leaders and their famlies, who are willing to stand up and endorse the proposed reforms put forth by Obama and Biden, and leaders in New York and other states. 

 

Lynn E. O’Connor, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, Professor at the Wright Institute, Berkeley CA, and Director of the Emotion, Personality, and Altruism Research Group. more...

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