I came across the word “hoplophobia” in a news article about gun control this week. I really love discovering “new-to-me” words, and I typed it into the internet search bar and came up with the basic definition “fear of guns.”
This condition has not been recognized (as yet) by the medical/psychiatric community, and I found nothing I would call an unbiased scientific study, so here is a quote from WIKIPEDIA – which was pretty much the “source” cited by many of the articles:
“Firearms authority and writer Jeff Cooper claims to have coined the word in 1962 to describe what he called a “mental aberration consisting of an unreasoning terror of gadgetry, specifically, firearms.” The term was constructed from the Greek ὅπλον – hoplon, meaning, amongst other things, “arms,” and φόβος – phobos, meaning “fear.” Although not a mental health professional, Cooper employed the term as an alternative to other slang terms, stating: “We read of ‘gun grabbers’ and ‘anti-gun nuts’ but these slang terms do not [explain this behavior].” Cooper attributed this behavior to an irrational fear of firearms and other forms of weaponry. Cooper’s opinion was that “the most common manifestation of hoplophobia is the idea that instruments possess a will of their own, apart from that of their user.” Writing in an opinion piece, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist Dimitri Vassilaros asserted that the term was intended by Cooper as tongue-in-cheek to mock those who think guns have free will.“
So now I have a name for the terror that used to grip me at the thought of picking up a gun (and sometimes still unsettles me when handling sharp blades). At first I was a wee bit giddy with what approached delight having found a label for it, but my fervor was dampened as I continued wading into the subject.
I soon was floundering in the “deep end” of politically slanted rhetoric and pseudo intellectualism. Many of the articles implied that anyone who disagreed with the “2nd amendment” – er’s position must be emotionally disabled or ill.
I have addressed the tendency we have to dehumanize people so that we can act with impunity in ways that may be cruel and demeaning in my post “Pride and Prejudice.” I find it disturbing that both sides are attempting to make positions on guns a mental health issue, rather than keeping it in its correct place as our Constitutional Right.
I hope this word will not experience a popular resurgence.
After today’s wandering through the internet on the subject, I conclude citing and sharing sources of what I uncovered there would be of little value.
What emerged and was clearly evident in what I read, is an undeniable climate of FEAR about fire arms, both on a primitive level (a “true phobia” ) or the generalized level (a social phenomenon).
Also interesting to me is that “both sides” were in favor of desensitization for the person labeled hoplophobe. The methods varied from showing pictures of guns and firearms to the “patient,” or undergoing neural conditioning/hypnotherapy and/or taking drugs to reduce anxiety, to having the person study and take a course at a range to learn more about the focus of their fear – firearms.
I believe great CAUTION is necessary in applying words like “hoplophobia” randomly or because you don’t agree with someone else’s position. Labeling and what amounts to name calling your “opponent” (by either “side”) does nothing to reduce the widening gap in this heated arena. Keeping FEAR embedded in your life, and projecting that out onto others who may disagree with you, will keep you – and them- trapped in a vicious downward spiral.
What will help is being a responsible, respectful advocate for gun ownership. If you have overcome your FEAR – hoplophobic or otherwise – share that with others in a positive manner. As you have taken steps in transforming that negative paralyzing state through knowledge and understanding, you have allowed yourself, and hopefully others, to move forward with empowerment.
Happy and Safe shooting – Peggy