Category Archives: FEAR Factors

How fear influences our decisions and choices: in personal behavior and/or societal fear. Recognizing and transforming/overcoming it in relation to firearms.

Why I Choose to Carry

Here is a great presentation of not only why this man has chosen to carry a gun, but also the stigma that can accompany that choice.
Thanks to Semi on Target for a well done post!


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Hoplophobia – New Word of the Day

The White haired ShooterTHE WHITE HAIRED SHOOTER

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.”[5] The term was constructed from the Greek ὅπλον – hoplon, meaning, amongst other things, “arms,”[6] and φόβος – phobos, meaning “fear.”[7] 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.”[5] 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.[8]

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

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Posted by on March 21, 2014 in FEAR Factors


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How do you choose your first firearm?

The White haired ShooterTHE WHITE HAIRED SHOOTER

This is a continuation of the January 13th post:  Are you thinking of buying/ carrying a gun?

In that post I shared my opinion that a decision to own/carry a gun should NEVER be acted on from a “knee jerk” reaction to something that has happened to you, someone you know, or someone you have read or heard about.

Fear, while a strong motivating force that may have helped you make your decision, must be “laid aside” and careful and critical thinking needs to be applied before acting on your decision. Owning and carrying a gun is a serious matter and needs to be given appropriate respect and consideration.

Like other important decisions in life there are some basic factors to consider as you begin the process of becoming an empowered, responsible gun owner.  Today’s post suggests a way to help you get started on that journey.

There is a lot of information published on the subject of “choosing the right gun,” and I will add some links that may be of assistance at the end of this post.

But first:

Choosing “YOUR” firearm

In my husband’s NRA Basic Pistol classes, I have seen quite a few women carrying around very nice firearms they are not comfortable with and/or have not been able to control or operate safely and effectively. Typically they have been provided/advised to get “w-a-y too much gun” by a well meaning husband, male relative or salesmen.

While you wouldn’t dream of walking up to a salesperson and blindly letting them pick out a purse or pair of shoes for you, a large number of first time (and particularly mature) gun owners want or expect someone else to make this very important and personal choice for them.

In this strange new world of firearms, most often “you” don’t have a clue about what “you” need. The very first step – before approaching someone to help you pick out a firearm- is realizing it is your responsibility to think through what your needs and abilities are FIRST.

A salesman at the gun counter can be very helpful, as can your husband, friends, firearms instructor, internet articles and magazines.  But basically it all needs to start with you understanding what “YOU” need.

What is your Primary need?

The first and MAIN factor in choosing your first – or fiftieth – gun is: what will be the purpose of the gun? You need to think about your life situation, the neighborhood you live in, where you go when you leave your home, and the situations you are likely to encounter.

Reducing the immense amount of information available down to a basic definition of the situation(s) where you most need a firearm will give you a solid starting point. In simple terms, do you need/want to:

A) Carry a firearm with you outside your home?

B) Maintain a firearm primarily to protect yourself in your home?

C) Both A and B?

Once you have made that determination, it is time to do some homework! You will need to research the different types of firearms best suited to your basic situational need. Afterall, once you remove the “fear factor” attached to guns, the purchase of a firearm is really no different than purchasing any other personal and/or major item. As women we have honed that skill.

Take some time to reduce the “mystery” of this subject, to learn the “language” and you will start to gain confidence and be a much more savvy shopper!

Remember to take into account your lifestyle: your choice may be very different if you drive your own vehicle or ride on public transit; do you live in shared quarters? an apartment? a house in the suburbs? or in a rural setting?

What are your physical abilities? What type of firearm would fit you best for your size, and if you have decreased hand strength, mobility or vision issues?

After taking an inventory of your situation, needs, strengths and limitations, and familiarizing yourself with some of your options, you will find yourself a bit more “grounded” and ready to begin your active quest to choosing your first firearm. Don’t rush it. Guns are a major investment, and ridding yourself of obvious and hidden fear factors- by gaining information – is a solid first step.

Financial considerations

As you continue on this journey, you may learn that one firearm cannot fit all your needs. That lightweight gun to carry with you will undoubtedly have more recoil to contend with than you want for target practice, but the heavier practice gun will not travel well with you.   Depending on where you live, you may be able to rent a firearm for practice. You may determine that a shotgun may be the safest and best choice for your home defense need. Ultimately, only you can decide which “need” is the greatest, and make the decision on what will be YOUR best first purchase.

Quite a few of the older women in the classes are on fixed incomes, and money can be in short supply. Past the initial purchase, there is ammunition, cleaning supplies, accessories to carry/store the firearm, range and training costs.   The decision to purchase a firearm is an investment.That will be the subject of another post…. until then….

Just a few links that may be helpful:

Happy and Safe shooting  –  Peggy


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Recognizing and Overcoming my own FEAR: Firearms

The White haired ShooterTHE WHITE HAIRED SHOOTER

This post is a personal recounting of my own experience in facing and overcoming fear(s) of firearms. It is written from my (mature woman’s) viewpoint and experience, and gives a glimpse at how I have, and continue to, go through the process of recognizing what it is I fear, what “ghosts” from my past influence my approach to firearms, and the need for continuing examination of new fears arising, and continuing my education about firearms.

The experience with firearms and learning targeting skills for the woman of my generation begins in a different manner than that of the typical American kids of today. When we were children, the availability of games to learn targeting skills was limited pretty much to throwing balls, darts, playing pool and pinball, and maybe shooting a small bow and arrow or ping pong ball launcher.

During the 50s and 60s, girls who participated or hung around those activities were mostly”tomboys” or were there to be around a “special” guy, or guys.  My experience is a mixture of both “tomboy” and “girlie girl” – I was a middle child with two brothers who REALLY liked anything that went boom, and I liked hanging around those guys I found to be “special” as well.

Today’s kids have so many targeting specific “games” and “equipment” available –  air rifles, paintball, laser guns and rifles, high powered water guns and cannons, along with a slew of video and computer games, from small screens to large screens, from handhelds and phones to large screen Wii that involves using the muscles along with targeting skills.

However, it has been my experience personally and from being around mature women in the classes, that dedication to learning to aim and shoot is often more indicative of becoming a good or great shooter than simple exposure to targeting sports earlier in life. The “fear factor” might be slightly more prevalent in the “late learner”, but we don’t mind, as a group, taking the time to master a new skill.  We didn’t grow up with “instant gratification” being one of the hallmarks of our lives.

So, on to a brief summary of  my acquaintance and types of fears I have experienced with various firearms:

22 Rifles

I have shared that I came from a military family. My dad was a rifle instructor, and shooting rifles was part of my youth. Fear did not play much of a role in shooting the 22 rifle mostly because my dad taught me well and made me feel safe, and I knew he would make sure the environment of the range would also be safe for me and all of “his kids.”

I was given appropriate safety instruction, knew how to load, unload and check any of the target rifles I picked up to make sure it was “clear,” always pointed it in a safe direction and never played around with it. It was only to be shot at a range. Period. If I saw anyone misusing a 22 rifle, I was taught to move to cover, and report them immediately to an authority.

Other than occasional target practice, I haven’t had an occasion to shoot  a 22 rifle in many years.


As an adult, I made the transition to a shotgun fairly seamlessly, and admit to liking the 20 gauge over the 12 gauge because  the “punch” from the 12 gauge recoil can be painful! However, I have learned to take the “beating” if I am presented with a chance at high flying ducks and geese because the effective range of the 12 gauge is much longer than the 20 gauge!

The shotguns I used have a regulation-limited three shells loaded while hunting, and the range of effectivity, even with higher rated loads doesn’t exceed much past 50 yards.  Initially, this gave me a  “feeling” that shotguns are pretty “safe” and controllable. I didn’t experience “Primitive” fear when shooting them, other than flinching when anticipating the recoil and knowing I would sport a bruise if I didn’t hold the shotgun up against my shoulder correctly.

My early training with the 22 rifle gave me a good foundation in gun safety, but the longer I  hunted ducks, geese and grouse, the more impact stories about people accidentally shooting and being shot by hunting partners had on me. Carrying around a loaded shotgun became very scary to me for awhile.

Truth is, my early feelings of comfort about 22 rifles and shotguns was not based on logic.  I  had generalized my feeling of “safety” from the highly controlled and safe environment I had experienced with my dad, and “spread it” to other rifles and then shotguns in general. But without proper education in how to handle a firearm in a field situation, fear crept in.  A fearful person handling a firearm is an accident waiting to happen.

Both the 22 rifle and shotguns are capable of being lethal. The shotgun has enormous stopping power at a short range, is fairly simple to work, and especially with a longer barrel, can be most effective when aimed properly.

My ignorance, while initially blissful, was problematic. I studied about various pellet composition, shapes, sizes, shell lengths, powder charges, spread of the pellets and so on. By seeking education and gaining experience in the safe way to carry and work the shotgun,  I have developed more of an understanding and proficiency, and thereby lessened my fear of being out in the field with a shotgun.

High Powered Hunting Rifles

I have already shared that a large dose of Primitive Fear arose in me the first time and for many subsequent times I handled and shot a high power rifle. They are louder, have a large recoil, and are a very serious firearm to shoot.

I had no experience shooting high powered rifles.  Just carrying an unloaded one around made me very nervous and fearful, although I put on the “brave face.” Off I  went to “sight in the rifle” that first year, and  I am fairly certain my husband was unaware that the shotgun hunting we had done did not translate into deer hunting with any sense of comfort for me.

One problem I encountered was how we sighted in the rifles with just a few rounds. That was mostly because with a scope I found it very easy to be on target. I never felt it was “fun” to shoot these powerful firearms, so shooting more than five rounds was unusual as time progressed. Then off to the field we’d go. Successful hunting usually meant one round to one deer that would be brought home, all seemed well. But I did not take the time to learn enough to feel safe and proficient in their handling until many years down the road.

It has only been the last few years that I have actually begun to feel that I am handling these rifles safely, and have become more comfortable as I have listened and learned  and  begun to develop a sense of proficiency


For me, handguns are another issue entirely.  I had zero experience with them until I was in my 20s, when, as I shared – I was held up at gun point on two separate occasions while working a night job at a service station.

Up until that point I had only heard negative things about “guns” – accidental shootings, gang related “drive bys” and the dark and seamy side guns played in the news and the movies. The “good guys” and “cowboys” from the past century all had fabulous training in weapons of all kinds, and those in that category included the police and soldiers.

I “knew” that handguns were dangerous and unpredictable. I also knew one shot usually led to instant death. You can’t “recall” a bullet once it is fired.  And so on. Society did not want people like me to gain more understanding. Guns were to be avoided. They were an instrument used to dominate, intimidate, and unless in the hands of the police or military, good only for killing other human beings.

Then in my 30s, a Taurus 9mm was put in my hands by my ex – without any instruction.  I was expected to shoot it accurately by the “ex” who was a correctional officer, and had been through academy training, I was pretty much “scared stiff.”  I failed miserably at hitting the target and hated every minute of it. I did learn how to clean it after shooting, so the exercise was not totally without merit. Up until the day we divorced I never shot a handgun again.

I avoided handguns as much as possible even after I remarried – until I encountered a situation I have already shared. My husband always carried a high caliber pistol when we are out “in the wild” and I was left alone with the clear signs of moose in the immediate area. Moose inspire more anxiety to fly fishermen than bears as a general rule, and I was in a position of feeling more fear of being without appropriate protection (a gun) than the fear I had of handguns.

I have also shared that I again experienced having a bigger fear of being unprotected without  a handgun than the fear of carrying a gun when I was stranded in the icy, dark of winter years later. By that time I knew more about handguns, had overcome my fear of HANDGUNS in general, and was becoming proficient with many different pistols at the range and in classes. But I was still fearful of carrying a loaded gun with me as I went about my business in an uncontrolled or field environment. Very similar to my fear of high powered hunting rifles. My comfort zone was limited to highly controlled situations.  “Out in the World” was a different matter.

I could intellectually KNOW that I should carry a firearm for self defense, but the myriad of situations in which actually using that firearm – in defense from an animal or a human – brought a near choking sense of panic in the beginning.  It has subsided now to a lower anxiety level as I have begun to carry a loaded handgun, but I still have a long way to go.

In Summary

At the very core of overcoming FEAR has got to be the DESIRE to overcome.  Unfortunately that desire is usually driven by something that is more fearful than the original object of fear. But the desire and willingness to gain an education about the subject has got to be there.

Then comes mustering the courage to face your fears. It will come.  It’s not magical.  If you have a negative experience or societal training in your past that you must overcome you must now gain NEW experience and NEW training to accomplish your goals.

I have read that when we can’t cope with an emotion, we bury or “stuff” it safely away until at some point an event occurs that brings that emotion back to the surface. It will have the same intensity as the day we “stuffed” it, and  we’ll experience the same tinges of emotion –  the terror, horror, and fear – as the day we last encountered it.

If we are not prepared to handle and work through the emotions, we will once again bury it. Sometimes the response is to take that emotion and apply it negatively, as in prejudice, hatred, and generating even MORE fear to the point of being phobic. Sometimes we try to overcome the fear by using it to control others. When we approach it negatively, we aren’t handling the root cause of the problem.  It just adds tends to add more fuel to the emotion and perpetuates itself.

Eventually, when we are able face that fear, and take positive steps to learn the cause or how to work through the fear, we can we begin to grow past that point and the irrational fears begin to fade away. While danger is a reality and present in many parts of our lives, doors open, new thoughts and connections become available to us, and we have the opportunity to make decisions, take action and become empowered.

There are  many stories of former “anti gun” people who have become gun owners and enjoy shooting sports and have developed new feelings of confidence and more proficient at self defense. But they had to face their fear for that to happen.

I would encourage any woman who is struggling with a decision about owning and carrying a firearm to look at their past history of emotions and training and identify where Primitive Fear and Generalized Fear have taken over the role of rational examination and bring those instances to the light of day as they work their way through this very personal decision.

Happy and Safe shooting  –  Peggy

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Posted by on February 17, 2014 in FEAR Factors


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“Pride and Prejudice”

The White haired ShooterTHE WHITE HAIRED SHOOTER

My apologies to Jane Austen as I use her alliterative title. It just seems to fit this post.  Fear as it relates to firearms has both prideful and prejudicial elements that have fueled and help perpetuate the inflammatory nature of the topic. I am going to touch very briefly on the subject because it is part of  the social reality we live with.

I am not going to take sides or try to sway anyone’s opinion.  I believe it is a complex topic that has many possible combinations and viewpoints, but has very often been reduced to extremes and oversimplified into being “FOR” or “AGAINST.” You are either for Gun Control or for 2nd Amendment Rights. That demand to “choose” basically pits the rights and needs of an individual against the rights and needs of the society.

And because we live in a country that recognizes certain inalienable rights and the attendant responsibilities of exercising those rights with respect for others, we have the freedom to have that debate.

It is difficult if not impossible to have calm and rational discussions where people hold powerful emotionally based positions.

“Pride” comes into play as people take sides they identify with, and gain the approval and empowerment from shared positions.

“Prejudice” where dehumanization of the perceived “opponent” becomes possible, and projection of rigid and untested labels become applied without regard to what an individual or group is actually bringing”to the table.”

The heated topic of Gun Control vs. 2nd Amendment Rights often presents with the hallmarks of fear based rhetoric. I think “Primitive fear” is evoked to maintain the fervor on both sides, and “Generalized Fear” is utilized in “spreading the word.”

I recognize there is an  “elephant in the room,” and that it lurks in the back of the mind of anyone considering owning and carrying a firearm. It will temper if and how you speak with friends and acquaintances.

The societal element is also a very real factor to consider as it relates to legislation and regulations that are applied to firearms in different jurisdictions.

I am going to “park” the societal examination of the topic for the duration of my discussion of fear and firearms. Rather, I intend to look into some potential causes and effects of an individual’s fear of weapons on a personal basis, and hopefully help a person looking to make a decision to own and carry a  firearm unravel and demystify “Guns.” And that is, as I have stated before, a Process.

Happy and Safe shooting  –  Peggy

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Posted by on February 15, 2014 in FEAR Factors


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FEAR – a driving force

The White haired ShooterTHE WHITE HAIRED SHOOTER

This post is the first in a series examining the nature of FEAR and its effect on FIREARMS – on both a societal and individual level, and I intend to develop the topic more particularly as a factor for the mature woman as we go.

This introductory post will examine “Fear” in general, and its affect in our lives. There are positive and negative elements to fear, and I am going to look at the process we experience as we transform it into learned behavior. This post is just my opinion and musings on the subject and is not meant to be go into great depths, but is more along along the lines of “food for thought.”

For the purposes of this post, I’ve broken fear down into TWO types, Primitive Fear and Generalized Fear.


Fear is a response to a direct stimulus or a perceived threat.  When the unexpected, threatening, and unknown is first encountered, we experience a primitive  “flight” (run away),”fright” (freeze) or “fight” (engage)  reaction to that stimulus, and that is what I will refer to as primitive fear.  It is direct, immediate, and uncontrollable.

An example might be when someone jumps from hiding. Whether that person is playing or intending us harm doesn’t matter.  Our conscious thinking process is not involved in the primitive response – and it doesn’t matter if we know we are playing a game.

IT happens, and IT stimulates an immediate reaction.

That reaction makes appropriate changes in our bodies to facilitate an immediate response to the threat or perceived threat – heart rate, muscles, and chemical releases in the body and brain that can enhance, sharpen – or deaden – our focus and ability to act, think and process. It prepares us to respond with heightened senses and strength, or an overload of stimuli can cause fainting and worse.

As a species we appear to delight in engendering that primitive fear response. We joke, tease each other, play and watch games and movies that get our adrenalin going, and engage in activities that “make us feel we’re alive” with thrilling sensations that stimulate and evoke that primitive fear response.


As thinking/sentient beings, we “generalize” – which basically means we take what we have learned and apply it to similar situations where we think, or are taught or trained to think, we can expect similar results.  This is a survival trait that assures the species will continue to exist. We learn from a situation and apply it to others.

It can also be used to control others without having to actually and physically approach or threaten the individual with REAL harm. By referencing or “linking” the fear response from memory, through words, pictures, and implication, a generalization to all sorts of situations is possible.  We teach our kids this way while they are growing, and society uses and maintains that training as as a person reaches adulthood.

A very real primitive fear response can be evoked from secondary situations. As in the babysitter who lets the children watch a scary show, or tells a horror story to them just before bedtime. Thrilling and scaring the listeners with gory details and embellishments to raise the primitive fear response engenders a generalized fear that can keep the kids in bed, although it can backfire and cause the babysitter a lot of grief when the kids won’t sleep and refuse to be alone out of fear.

We are complex beings, and there are webs built from fear based training that impact our daily decision making process. This affects culture and society, and our individual lives.  We are mostly not aware of the vast majority of these foundational fears, but that’s the realm of psychologists, psycho analysts, and …writers!

Fear and Firearms

Next post will open the “hot” topic of firearms.  On both the societal and individual level, there is the need to control firearms and their use, and the need to be able to use them for defense. These needs arise from both experiential and re-enacted memory of primitive fear, and from generalized training. It is a topic that gets very complex and hard to trace back to primary reasons on “both” sides. And its affect is a driving force in our society and lives today. Emotions attached to a fear based, fear driven issue are very often intense.

Happy and Safe shooting  –  Peggy

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Posted by on February 9, 2014 in FEAR Factors


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