In a laughable attempt to discredit gun-safety advocates, gun-rights supporters have begun to claim opponents suffer from the psychological condition of hoplophobia – the irrational fear of guns. This non-satirical article provides no clinical evidence of this phenomenon and only tenuously tries to squeeze hoplophobia in to the medical definition of phobias.
Admittedly, certain people do fear guns. In the wrong hands, guns can wreak terrible havoc. And many people in gang-ridden areas are only exposed to the negative aspects, so they are right to fear them. But to say that these people exhibit an irrational phobia is a step too far. This is a simple ad hominem when one group refuses to engage the arguments of the other and resorts to name-calling. It does nothing to advance the cause of gun-rights advocates.
Further, advocates appear insensitive when they claim gun violence victims like Gabrielle Giffords suffer from hoplophobia. Giffords had a violent experience with guns and has every right to be heard without being accused of irrationality. Similarly, if someone were able to use guns in self-defense, their experience should be heard as well and not attributed to an irrational obsession with guns.
That’s not to say there is no hysteria within the gun-rights movement as well. Reading online forums, a large portion of the gun-wielding population legitimately fears that government thugs will parachute into their backyards and confiscate their weapons. Even minor restrictions on criminal gun trafficking can be enough to be considered a slippery slope to some Orwellian dystopia. Long before President Obama put gun-control on his agenda, gun sales skyrocketed in fear that he maybe might potentially do something.
To be fair, gun-control proponents also peddle this same hysteria. Similar to how gun-control proponents are accused of hoplophobia, Peter Michaelson argues gun owners exhibit neurotic and obsessive behavior. Of course, he offers no clinical evidence to justify his claim either.
The gun-control debate is rife with irrationality. Many people buy guns to protect against burglary, but there are only about 100 burglary-homicides each year compared to 18,000 gun suicides each year. Yet one case of burglary on the news drives people to purchase firearms. Similarly, "assault weapons" (a dubious term) are responsible for less than 2% of gun-related deaths, but are maligned as killing machines when the truth is that fists and knives kill far more people. On the other hand, AR-15s are not used frequently in self-defense either, and restricting their sale would have a minute effect on gun owners.
Passionate and single-minded interests on both sides prevent any real solution to gun violence. Panic and paranoia instead end up dictating the creation of laws, leaving no room for rational discourse.