The Merriam Webster dictionary defines a phobia as:
An exaggerated usually inexplicable and illogical fear of a particular object, class of objects, or situation.
In other words, a phobia goes beyond reason and causes a person to act according to the fear instead of pursuing a course guided by reason. There are many ways one can gain mastery of one’s emotions and fears, but they all imply placing ourselves in the uncomfortable position of having to reason through a situation instead of allowing a knee jerk reaction to dominate our life.
In the case of hoplophobia, at the current time an irrational fear is being generated by the mass media and politicians in order to drive the public to take certain actions out of irrational fear instead of acting according to reason and wisdom. But what is hoplophobia, you ask? According to the late Jeff Cooper, originator of the term, hoplophobia is the irrational fear of weapons. Right here is where some will stop reading, much like an arachnophobe might exit an area screaming in fear over seeing a spider’s web. There’s not much reason in attempting to reason with someone who reacts so irrationally. If you’re still reading then you show some degree of common sense and a willingness to consider facts instead of hype and fear mongering.
There are many arguments used to justify the banning of inanimate objects in the hope that this will provide for general safety for the population at large. These arguments are not based on common sense nor are they based on logic, they are based on the irrational fear of inanimate objects instead of the rational caution towards individuals who might use any given object for evil purposes.
Firearms ARE inanimate objects. They have no volition of their own nor are they capable of exercising free will nor in fact are they able to operate at all without some external force being exerted upon them. There’s even a hashtag dedicated to the theme, #steelwaiting. Here’s a couple of images of firearms that sat for decades, immovable, unmoving, doing no harm to anyone.
This Mannlicher Carcano and Maxim machinegun were abandoned at some point during WWII. There they sat for decades until someone came along and documented their last resting place.
If firearms are inanimate objects, they are neither good nor evil. They merely exist. They may be used for good or evil, but such use depends on the person who picks them up and uses them. They can be used for recreation (there is no telling how many millions of rounds are shot each week in the US alone by recreational shooters). They can be used by hunters (the worlds largest potential army is comprised of the hunters across the US of A). They can be used to defend life (such use is far more common than many wish to acknowledge). And of course they can also be used to take innocent life (this is what motivates many to be overcome by hoplophobia). But ultimately, it is the person who picks up the firearm or other weapon that does any of the actions mentioned above.
Firearms are far easier to manufacture than many (most?) people realize. Yes, there are many firearms that are intricate and complex and difficult to manufacture without highly specialized machinery, but the firearm in its most simple form is very simple to manufacture. One might think that banning them would be an easy way to eliminate them from society, but such suppositions fly in the face of facts. Alcohol was banned in the US for many years. But the manufacture, importation, distribution and consumption of alcohol continued and gave rise to an impressive increase in violent crime as criminals fought to protect their territory or to take over the territory of others. The same has happened with narcotics. Firearms would be no different.
There are far more firearms in any given area than most people realize. As my wife and I travel we come into contact with many different people from all kinds of backgrounds. When they find out my interest in all things that “go bang” it is not uncommon for white haired grannies, straitlaced businessmen, farmers, ranchers and even city slickers to dig out some old relic – or even a modern late model firearm for “show and tell”. Many of them have never even fired the weapon in question, but they have it for any of a number of reasons. Often their immediate family would be shocked to find out that they possess such a thing. These people do not contribute to crime nor are they a threat to anyone even though they may appear to a hoplophobe to be “armed to the teeth”.
Also over the years it has been my privilege to get to know people from many different backgrounds. It is my observation that even where firearms are strictly controlled and regulated they exist in significant numbers. While living in the “back of beyond” it was interesting to find find weapons cached by communist agitators in different parts of the country back at the beginning of the 20th century. These weapons had been left in the hopes of arming insurgents, but for one reason or another the plans never came to fruition. Decades later they were still there in the hands of the decedents of the original caretakers. Sometimes the ammunition was long ago shot up and now unobtainable, other times the corrosive mercuric primers of the period had gone bad, rendering the ammunition unusable. But often the firearms themselves were still fully functional. Also it was common to find “forbidden guns” (firearms prohibited by local law because of “undesirable traits”) – in the hands of those in positions of power. One time a politically connected person showed me such a “forbidden gun” – complete with an official concealed carry license for the same. Just as Animal Farm described, “Some animals are more equal than others.” The truth of the matter is, just by prohibiting something you will NOT guarantee that it will cease to exist. The following image demonstrates what typically happens.
It comes as a shock to many “modern people” that there are tens and even hundreds of millions of firearms in the hands of their friends and neighbors. Having been conditioned by the media to view such items as “unnecessary at best and evil at worst”, they tremble at the thought that they may come into contact with someone who might possess such “an instrument of destruction”. Meanwhile, they get in their car (far more people are killed in car related incidents each year than by firearms) and go visit their doctor (medical malpractice is the third largest contributor to deaths in the US) to get a referral to a psychiatrist so they can get some pill to calm them down from the stress of finding out that someone has a firearm.
Criminals do not obey laws. If someone will not respect the oldest of innate, natural laws – “Thou shalt not murder”, what makes you think that they’d respect a law that says “Thou shalt not obtain a firearm”. Study after study reveals that criminals usually do not even obtain firearms from “normal” sources. They do NOT go to gun stores, nor do they go to gun shows. They buy them from some guy that some other guy knows. And he got them from the guy that stole them. And often they are even stolen from the police. In the US of A it is against the law for any felon to so much as touch a firearm. That alone should keep guns out of their hands – if they obeyed the law. Well over 90% of all “mass shootings” in the US take place in so called “gun free zones”. Places which are established as “gun free zones” rarely have a method for enforcing that designation. If there’s no metal detector backed up by armed guards, it is impossible to guarantee that no one will walk past that sign while carrying a weapon. And there is no way of knowing if that person ignoring the sign is there with good or evil intent. That is why many thinking people refuse to acknowledge those signs and walk right past them. That is the whole purpose of concealed carry, to keep unreasoning people from knowing that the person next to them has made the conscious decision to provide for their own security and that of those who surround them.
Another problem with the knee jerk reaction of “let’s ban firearms” in the face of some murderous rampage or another is, it will NOT have an effect on those who commit such atrocities. France has very strict gun control laws – yet that didn’t keep certain radical individuals from shooting up different places and killing innocent people. Boston, Massachusetts has very strict gun control laws, but certain people committed a heinous act of using explosives contained in pressure cookers to kill and maim. Oh, and those explosives weren’t exactly legal either. Knee jerk gun prohibitions are like a knee jerk car prohibition in light of the massive number of drunk drivers (FAR more than the homicidal people who commit murders with firearms) on our streets.
One of the hardest things for some people to grasp is the concept that not everyone “loves their neighbor as themselves”. There are people with evil intent, people willing to hurt and destroy others for any one of a number of reasons. These people will stop at nothing to do what they want to do. The only thing that will stop an evil person with evil intent is a good person willing to stand and keep them from committing the evil act they have decided on.
It is not just firearms that are abused by people with evil intent. A BBC news report from March 2, 2014 notes that there was an attack in China where 29 people were killed and 130 were wounded by a group of people wielding knives. This is not a lone occurrence as Wikipedia (yeah, I know) has a list of such attacks going back to 2010.
The question stated in the title of this piece is a valid one. Are you a hoplophobe, one that fears inanimate objects and blames them for the actions of people, or are you a rational person, capable of recognizing that firearms, knives and other inanimate objects are NOT the cause of crime but rather that crime is committed by people who may use an inanimate object as part of their criminal act? If you continue to fear inanimate objects, you are obviously not reacting in a rational manner and are thus by definition a hoplophobe. If you recognize that people are the ones that commit diverse criminal acts, then we can begin to have a meaningful discussion on what it would take to keep such horrific tragedies from occurring in the future.