Four long months have nearly passed since the Sandy Hook
Elementary School shooting. And yet Congress has yet to approve any
new gun legislation - despite the personal pleas for action by the
families of victims in Newtown, Conn.
Why the delay?
One reason is that Americans remain intensely divided over many
of the gun issues. Lawmakers are locked into blocs of competing
views among voters, creating a stalemate in forging a compromise.
Even when polls show a majority favoring a particular solution, that
doesn't sway key lawmakers.
But another, rarely mentioned reason is that the issues
surrounding guns are complex. Gun legislation remains complicated
because the causes for gun violence are varied. And other issues are
complex: Who can tell if a person is dangerous? What is the role of
violent video games? What is an assault weapon?
As President Obama stated after the Newtown shooting: "We know
this is a complex issue that stirs deeply held passions and
political divides." And Rep. Mike Thompson, chairman of the House
Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, admits to the difficulty in
crafting solutions. The California Democrat says that he has worked
"with virtually everyone imaginable" on reducing gun violence while
respecting the Second Amendment. And yet he found one thing to be
clear about gun regulation: "It is a very complex issue, and in
order to make any meaningful progress, it's gonna take a complex and
very comprehensive solution. You push one place, it takes you
It is not only elected officials who confess to being stuck in
the thicket of issues over how to balance the public's desire for
protection against a constitutional right to bear arms.
The Supreme Court's 2008 decision that recognized a fundamental
gun right left open many unknown loopholes. In a 2010 ruling related
to guns, Justice Steven Breyer highlighted the "highly complex"
issues and posed a series of questions:
"Does the right to possess weapons for self-defense extend
outside the home? To the car? To work? What sort of guns are
necessary for self-defense? Handguns? Rifles? Semiautomatic weapons?
When is a gun semiautomatic?... Who can possess guns and of what
kind? Aliens? Prior drug offenders? Prior alcohol abusers?"
Perhaps a new approach is needed, one that addresses this
A number of scholars have noted that Americans face an increasing
number of choices in their daily lives, often leading to a "learned
helplessness," or a certain apathy to act. …