I don’t like horror movies. There is nothing attractive about sitting and waiting for the monster to jump out of the dark screen at me. Hoplophobes are people who have an irrational fear of firearms. What do they feel as they wait for their monster to attack, and can they be helped?
What have hoplophobes done to guns?
People with irrational fears of guns express those fears in several ways. They may experience guns as having lives of their own. They think a gun will jump off the dark shelf and attack on its own.
These exaggerations can seem funny to gun owners. Many of us take our friends shooting. We start them with low powered .22 rimfire firearms. These come in every size from child to adult. If they want more, there are mid-power firearm such as the .223. Originally designed to shoot small pests, this rifle throws a light bullet with little recoil. It can fit most adults when outfitted with an adjustable stock and comb.
Perhaps you recognize it, but we’ve just described the dreaded “assault rifle”.. as well as dozens of other firearms we’ve had for a hundred years. The hoplophobe sees them as death-dealing murder machines, though it remains a “girl’s gun” to the rest of us. Unfortunately, the hoplophobia doesn’t end there.
What have hoplophobes done to us?
Hoplophobes empower firearms in other ways. They invest these inanimate objects with the power to cloud men’s minds. They believe that guns sing an irresistible siren song that can seduce healthy people to unimaginable violence. They attribute evil intent more to guns than to those who wield them. Projecting this kind of influence onto guns may actually demonstrate the gun-hater’s fear of his neighbors. Such fear can be an oblique confession of the gun-haters own lack of self-control. They are displacing their own anxieties onto others in order to feel better about themselves.
Why does condemning guns feel so noble?
Condemnation plays an important part in their battle against irrational fear. The more strongly they exaggerate the power of firearms, the more energetic their attacks against gun and gun owners, the less they feel controlled by their fear. They empower the monster in order to vanquish it. That sounds irrational to most of us, but hoplophobes can’t address firearms logically because of the overwhelming irrationality of their relationship to these devices of plastic and metal.
Why would you announce your fear in public?
Many hoplophobes are unusually loud in their condemnation of guns and gun owners. Compare that to other fears we feel. I’ve never heard people who are afraid of dogs or spiders condemn those animals with the vehemence that hoplophobes show for guns and gun owners.
Wealthy gun-phobics have spent scores of millions of dollars on their attacks. There may be method to their madness, some purpose to their high-pitched volume. What if these professional gun-haters are not afraid of guns at all. We know that professional actors are not afraid of monsters when they are off screen. The fear that movie actors portray in front of a camera is simply part of a role they play. What if the professional gun-haters are more like actors playing to elicit our fears of guns and violence? They want us feel the emotions they portray in front of the news cameras. They want us to join in their tribal chant to slay the evil gun monster. This explains why so many paid gun-haters have armed security guards protecting them with where they live and work.
Why is it hard for normal people to see violence and injury?
There is a more sympathetic way to understand our avoidance of firearms. All guns are potentially lethal. As I explained to a young nurse who had just taken her first shots, all guns can kill, some more surely than others. Do you remember the videos they showed about car crashes in driver’s education class? Not fun. Imagining the use of lethal force is not attractive for most of us. Our respect for life is a good thing that we wouldn’t want to lose. This reluctance to look at human injury and death has important implications, both good and bad.
Can we see violence?
It takes great emotional maturity to observe violence, injury and death, especially when they result from hard choices that we or someone else has had to make. Most of us will never be violent towards another person. Unfortunately, we can carry that innocence too far. We may find ourselves reluctant to honor a guardian who stops an evil act by means of lethal force. Our aversion can go too far when we second guess the guardian’s decision because we imagine there should always be a perfect and peaceful outcome.
Emotional wisdom accepts that peaceful outcomes are not always possible. A peaceful outcome might mean surrender, and sometimes the cost of surrender is too high. We know we should only use force proportional to the risk. We only use lethal force to protect human life. We have to remember the people a guardian saved as well as remember those he may be forced to hurt.
How does hoplophobia affect our world today?
The professional media campaign against guns and gun owners makes some very bold claims. Hoplophobes claim that their uneasiness around armed civilians is more important than the right of ordinary people to be able to protect themselves. Their fear is supposedly more important than our lives, our families, and our communities. These gun-phobes claim they know what is best for all of us. The result is to treat gun owners as less than human, and so not worthy of respect.
That is degrading, and demands an unjust sacrifice from everyone to placate their irrational fear. It is past time to face these fears in ourselves and others. Then we can all make better decisions and live safer lives.