How often have you heard these statements from misguided advocates of victim disarmament, or even woefully uninformed relatives and neighbors? Why do people cling so tightly to these beliefs, in the face of incontrovertible evidence that they are wrong? Why do they get so furiously angry when gun owners point out that their arguments are factually and logically incorrect? How can you communicate with these people who seem to be out of touch with reality and rational thought? One approach to help you deal with anti-gun people is to understand their psychological processes. Once you understand why these people behave so irrationally, you can communicate more effectively with them.
About a year ago I received an e-mail from a member of a local Jewish organization. The author, who chose to remain anonymous, insisted that people have no right to carry firearms because he didn't want to be murdered if one of his neighbors had a "bad day". (I don't know that this person is a "he", but I'm assuming so for the sake of simplicity.) I responded by asking him why he thought his neighbors wanted to murder him, and, of course, got no response. The truth is that he's statistically more likely to be murdered by a neighbor who doesn't legally carry a firearm(1) and more likely to be shot accidentally by a law enforcement officer.(2)
How does my correspondent "know" that his neighbors would murder him if they had guns? He doesn't. What he was really saying was that if he had a gun, he might murder his neighbors if he had a bad day, or if they took his parking space, or played their stereos too loud. This is an example of what mental health professionals call projection – unconsciously projecting one's own unacceptable feelings onto other people, so that one doesn't have to own them.(3)
It's obvious that we live in a dangerous society, where criminals attack innocent people. Just about everyone has been, or knows someone who has been, victimized. It's equally obvious that law enforcement can't protect everyone everywhere 24 hours a day. Extensive scholarly research demonstrates that the police have no legal duty to protect you(10) and that firearm ownership is the most effective way to protect yourself and your family.(11) There is irrefutable evidence that victim disarmament nearly always precedes genocide.(12) Nonetheless, the anti–gun folks insist, despite all evidence to the contrary, that "the police will protect you", "this is a safe neighborhood" and "it can't happen here", where "it" is everything from mugging to mass murder.
Anti–gun people who refuse to accept the reality of the proven and very serious dangers of civilian disarmament are using denial to protect themselves from the anxiety of feeling helpless and vulnerable. Likewise, gun owners who insist that "the government will never confiscate my guns" are also using denial to protect themselves from the anxiety of contemplating being forcibly disarmed and rendered helpless and vulnerable.
Reaction formation is yet another defense mechanism common among the anti–gun folks. Reaction formation occurs when a person's mind turns an unacceptable feeling or desire into its complete opposite.(13) For example, a child who is jealous of a sibling may exhibit excessive love and devotion for the hated brother or sister.
Likewise, a person who harbors murderous rage toward his fellow humans may claim to be a devoted pacifist and refuse to eat meat or even kill a cockroach.(14) Often such people take refuge in various spiritual disciplines and believe that they are "superior" to "less civilized" folks who engage in "violent behavior" such as hunting, or even target shooting. They may devote themselves to "animal welfare" organizations that proclaim that the rights of animals take precedence over the rights of people.(15) This not only allows the angry person to avoid dealing with his rage, it allows him actually to harm the people he hates without having to know he hates them.
This is not meant to disparage the many wonderful people who are pacifists, spiritually inclined, vegetarian, or who support animal welfare. The key issue is not the belief itself, but rather the way in which the person experiences and lives his beliefs. Sincere practitioners seek to improve themselves, or to be helpful in a gentle, respectful fashion. They work to persuade others peacefully by setting an example of what they believe to be correct behavior. Sincere pacifists generally exhibit good will towards others, even towards persons with whom they might disagree on various issues.
Contrast the sincere pacifist or animal lover with the strident, angry person who wants to ban meat and who believes murdering hunters is justified in order to "save the animals" – or the person who wants to outlaw self–defense and believes innocent people have the obligation to be raped and murdered for the good of society. For example, noted feminist Betty Friedan said "that lethal violence even in self defense only engenders more violence."(16) The truly spiritual, pacifist person refrains from forcing others to do what he believes, and is generally driven by positive emotions, while the angry person finds "socially acceptable" ways to harm, abuse, or even kill, his fellow man.
Ultimately, your goal is to take the anti–gun person shooting. Some people will accept an invitation to accompany you to the range, but others are too frightened to do so, and will need some preliminary experience.
First, you want to encourage the anti–gun person to have some contact with a firearm in whatever way feels most comfortable to him. Many people seem to believe that firearms have minds of their own and shoot people of their own volition. So you might want to start by inviting him simply to look at and then handle an unloaded firearm. This also provides you the opportunity to show the inexperienced person how to tell whether a firearm is loaded and to teach him the basic rules of firearms safety.
Encourage the newcomer to ask questions and remember that your role is to present accurate information in a friendly, responsible and non–threatening way. This is a good time to offer some reading material on the benefits of firearms ownership. But be careful not to provide so much information that it's overwhelming. And remember this is not the time to launch into anti–government rants, the New World Order, conspiracy theories, or any kind of political talk!
Next, you can invite your friend to accompany you to the shooting range. (And if you're going to trust each other with loaded guns, you should consider yourselves friends!) Assure him that no one will force him to shoot a gun and he's free just to watch. Let him know in advance what he will experience and what will be expected of him. This includes such things as the need for eye and ear protection, a cap, appropriate clothing, etc. Make sure you have a firearm appropriate for your guest should she/he decide to try shooting. This means a lower caliber firearm that doesn't have too much recoil. If your guest is a woman, make sure the firearm will fit her appropriately. Many rifles have stocks that are too long for small women, and double–stack semi–autos are usually too large for a woman's hand.
Remember that just visiting the range can be a corrective experience. Your guest will learn that gun owners are disciplined, responsible, safety–conscious, courteous, considerate, and follow the rules. He will see people of all ages, from children to the elderly, male and female, enjoying an activity together. He will not see a single "beer–swilling redneck" waving a firearm in people's faces.
Friday, January 4, 2013
A Psychiatric View of the Anti-Gun Mentality
A friend sent me this great piece by a psychiatrist on the anti-gun mentality titled, "Raging Against Self Defense". Below are some excerpts as it is quite lengthy, read the whole thing: