Psychology and Guns

July 2nd, 2014
in Op Ed, syndication

Written by

Perhaps we're asking the wrong question in our national gun debate. The issue is not whether we should have gun control laws in America - or what they should be.

Follow up:

The issue is why so many white middle-American men view any effort to regulate guns as an assault on their identity, and thus, fight sane laws as if their lives and liberties were at stake. Our nation remains awash in firearms. The reason is that middle-aged white men are buying more and more guns with ownership increasigly concentrated amongst them.

The likelihood that these men will own firearms increases the further they live from a city, yet it's not because they're hunting more. Guns have become something else - symbols of identity, totems of virility for a cohort of these rural and ex-urban men.

You only need to look at the ads the gun manufacturers use to lure in their buyers. They typically invite men to imagine themselves as warriors in camouflage taking on a hostile world. Buying a Bushmaster semi-automatic

"confirms you're a Man's Man, the last of a dying breed, with all the rights and privileges duly afforded."

In other word, from a psychological perspective, guns give these men strength, status and respect - which many of them feel has eroded since the 1960s.

It wasn't long ago when broad-shouldered white men dominated our culture, and in their role as Michael Kulla  Pleasant  Valley  635-1144 breadwinners gave them status and pride. We appreciated their physical prowess and hard work which made our factories run and the economy hum. They were the pillars of our community, unrivaled as heads of families and icons of the "real America." But decades since, the American dream hasn't been so kind to them.

Also,these white middle-American men often believe that minority gains in America are not earned through hard work but are ill-begotten through special privileges among the urban and educated elite who hold the levers of power and status in society today.

Just as the educated suburbanite drives a Prius as a badge of virtue, the emblem of the NRA affixed to his pick-up or car, shows his power to all that can see.

The important role of firearms in our history's founding and mythology, is well accepted. Later, guns were crucial for the "successful" expansion of the Western Frontier. America went on to be the strongest military power in the world. However, that power has been challenged (a draw in the Korean War, withdrawal from Vietnam, 9/11 and the merry-go-round in Iraq) leaving firearms the perfect handmaiden for America's demise.

While all people have a potential for violence, they do not usually act on it. Sigmund Freud emphasized our unconscious sexual and aggressive impulses, which seem readily applicable to guns. In his theory of the mind, the conscience, or superego, puts the brakes on id impulses for the sake of civilization.

Yet, counteractively, human beings are the only living organism that will prey on its own kind for reasons other than survival. Only humans murder each other for power, obsessive gratification and other psychological deviancies, all antithetical to preserving the species. In contrast, the animal kingdom is habituated to survival, food, territory and procreation.

In a gun-besotted nation where the right of each citizen to pocess as many weapons of potential mass destruction as he or she wants, and is considered sacred and inviolable, surrenders to a deep-seated vulnerability and opens the gates to steroidal chaos.

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