Hitting the Bull’s Eye: Dealing With Firearms Prohibitionists

My wife is a psychiatrist. Following being raised and attending medical school in Alabama, she completed her psychiatric residency and a child psychiatry fellowship at Georgetown University Hospital. A significant portion of her training was during the Clinton years, where she was constantly under attack for her “radical views” by the Georgetown elite. This was a big cultural shock to her, coming from a home and social order where firearm ownership is the accepted norm. I still remember her frustration one day after her attendings suggested that a teenaged patient was psychologically defective merely because he owned a BB gun.

I found an interesting article written by another female psychiatrist which outlines the psychodynamics of people who favor victim disarmament, and more importantly provides some tactics for successfully engaging such people in debate about Second Amendment issues.

In a nutshell, Dr. Sarah Thompson provides that firearm prohibitionists use common defense mechanisms such as denial, projection and reaction formation in order to deal with their own psychological inadequacies. Here is one example:

Another defense mechanism commonly utilized by supporters of gun control is denial. Denial is simply refusing to accept the reality of a given situation.9 For example, consider a woman whose husband starts coming home late, has strange perfume on his clothes, and starts charging flowers and jewelry on his credit card. She may get extremely angry at a well-meaning friend who suggests that her husband is having an affair. The reality is obvious, but the wronged wife is so threatened by her husband’s infidelity that she is unable to accept it, and so denies its existence.

Anti-gun people do the same thing. 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 you10 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.

In my opinion, she makes many valid points but goes off the deep end while discussing victim identity. While many advocates of victim disarmament may clearly suffer from self-identification as a vicitm, she painted certain stereotypical groups with too broad a brush:

Consider for a moment that the largest and most hysterical anti-gun groups include disproportionately large numbers of women, African-Americans and Jews. And virtually all of the organizations that claim to speak for these “oppressed people” are stridently anti-gun. Not coincidentally, among Jews, Blacks and women there are many “professional victims” who have little sense of identity outside of their victimhood.

At both a local and national level, I know far too many pistol packing mommas, Jews and black people for her statement to hold water. This disagreement does not take away from what I consider the most important aspect of Thompson’s work.

After painting the picture that most people who oppose private ownership of firearms do so because of emotional reasons, she outlines mechanisms we can use to effectively communicate with them and perhaps even persuade some to reverse their illogical thought processes. Again, here’s an example:

Another example might be, “Why do you think that your children’s schoolteachers would shoot them?” You might follow this up with something like, “Why do you entrust your precious children to someone you believe would murder them?” Again, you are merely asking questions, and not directly attacking the person or his defenses.

Of course the anti-gun person might continue to insist that the teachers really would harm children, but prohibiting them from owning guns would prevent it. So you might ask how using a gun to murder innocent children is different from stabbing children with scissors, assaulting them with baseball bats, or poisoning the milk and cookies.

It’s important to ask “open-ended” questions that require a response other than “yes” or “no”. Such questions require the anti-gun person actually to think about what he is saying. This will help him to re-examine his beliefs. It may also encourage him to ask you questions about firearms use and ownership.

As a political consultant, I find the advice of my wife indespensible when dealing with the emotional perceptions of target audiences for which I have no special empathy. Oftentimes, firearms enthusiasts are as emotionally charged as their opponents, and Dr. Thompson provides some great tools for opening the lines of communications in order to protect our Second Amendment rights.

Stephen Gordon

I like tasteful cigars, private property, American whiskey, fast cars, hot women, pre-bailout Jeeps, fine dining, worthwhile literature, low taxes, original music, personal privacy and self-defense rights -- but not necessarily in this order.

  1. Just finished the entire article and while that one stereotypical assertion she makes is indeed too broad (but then again, what stereotype isn’t too broad?), the rest of the article definitely is worth reading at least once.

  2. As technology advances, things like shoulder fired rockets and rifle-mounted grenage launchers become smaller and more potent. At some point, even a handgun-sized weapons will have capabilities far greater than any need for personal protection. Thus the debate will seperate defenders of the Second Amendment into two, and force some to accept limits even on handgun-like weapons.

    My question is, how would one rationally determine a threshold to ‘excessive’ capability?

  3. Rh — that would make for an extrememly important article to get the conversation rolling on the topic.

  4. Owning a gun is one thing but being able to fire the weapon safely is another.

    I would like to see some statistics about accidental shootings and non-protection shootings.

    People who by guns should be responsible enough to learn how to shoot the guns. May be there should be a written and shooting test every 3 years.

    Any weapon you bring into the playing field can be taken from you and used against you if you do not know how to handle and protect the weapon.

  5. Great article, and will give insight to how others think about our sport.

    As to the term “Excessive Capability”. I all boils down to the Capability to “Stop the Threat”. What ever will stop the threat is NOT EXCESSIVE

  6. Bac,

    I can show you the numbers. But did you know Doctors have killed more people on an accidental basis than anyone with a gun? The numbers are posted on Icarry.org in our archives for the month of November 2005. It was written by Daniel Grey and the number used in his article were taken from the US DOJ


  7. I’m sorry Rh, I don’t care how potent or small the weapons get, one needs to defend themselves not only from criminals, but from government as well.

  8. Gun control, gun bans or gun confiscation and why they are wrong for a free country and a free people can be summed up in a couple of words: Remember New Orleans.