A modern scourge.
Hoplophobia, n. Irrational, morbid fear of guns (c. 1966, coined by Col.
Jeff Cooper, from the Greek hoplites, weapon; see his book Principles of Personal Defense). May cause sweating,
faintness, discomfort, rapid pulse, nausea, sleeplessness, nondescript fears, more, at
mere thought of guns. Presence of working firearms may cause panic attack. Hoplophobe, hoplophobic.
Hoplophobes are common and should never be involved
in setting gun policies. Point out hoplophobic behavior when noticed,
it is dangerous, sufferers deserve pity, and should seek treatment.
When confronted about their condition, hoplophobes typically go into denial, a common characteristic
of the affliction. Sometimes helped by training, or by coaching at a range,
a process known to psychiatry as "desensitization," a useful methodology in treating many phobias.
Hoplophobic behavior is often obvious from self-evident irrational responses to real-life situations, and is frequently seen in the news media and public debate. When a criminal commits a crime using a gun, hoplophobes often seek to disarm, or make lists of, innocent people who didn't do anything, a common, classic and irrational response.
The idea of creating an enormously expensive government-run 90-million-name database of legitimate gun owners -- which by definition would not include armed criminals -- is a prime example of an irrational hoplophobic response to the issue of crime. How writing your name in such a list would help stop crime is never even addressed. (See, "The Only Question About Gun Registration")
An effort is underway nationally to have hoplophobia recognized in
the DSM, the official directory of mental ailments. Resistance from
elements in the medical profession suggest this may be quite difficult,
but that does not reduce the importance of recognizing a widespread,
virulent, detrimental mental condition commonly found in the populace. The actual number of undiagnosed hoplophobes is unknown, but believed to be in the tens of millions.
Read Dr. Sarah Thompson's brilliant essay on the medical nature of this afflicition, the article that got the ball rolling on serious medical study of a condition affecting millions of Americans.
Read Dr. Bruce Eimer's insightful short description of the problem.
Hoplophobes are dangerous. They should not be involved in setting public policy.
Hoplophobes are victims. They are sick and need help.
Hoplophobes deserve sympathy. It's not their fault they are afflicted.
Hoplophobes should seek treatment. Help shoot for a cure.
Feb. 12, 2010 -- I have just obtained an original definition of hoplophobia from the term's creator, Jeff Cooper, through his daughter, Lindy Cooper Wisdom. She writes:
In Fireworks (copyright 1980), Chapter 3 is titled, "Open Letter: To a Legislative Hoplophobe." In it, Dad defines hoplophobia and puts a date to this definition of 1966.
It reads as follows:
HOPLOPHOBIA. (1966) From the Greek___(weapon) plus __
An unreasoning, obsessive neurotic fear of weapons as such, usually accompanied by an irrational feeling that weapons possess a will or consciousness for evil, apart from the will of their user. Not equivalent to normal apprehension in the presence of an armed enemy. Hoplon also means instrument, tool or tackle, but it is the root of hoplite (man-at-arms, gendarme) and thus principally signifies "weapon" in English derivations.
Col. Jeff Cooper, widely acclaimed as "The Father of the Modern Technique of Shooting," introduced the two-handed grip at eye level, when it was standard for people to shoot one-handed, and often from the hip. Far less known, Cooper was a historian with a Masters Degree in
History from the University of Calif. at Riverside and he held a B.A. from Stanford in Political Science.
Request for additional background yields results:
I'm on the faculty at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, which trains clinical psychologists, and where all able-bodied grad students take at least a year of aikido, including weapons. I checked with both the Cambridge Scientific Abstracts and ProQuest search engines, which pretty much cover all the major psychological journals, magazines and dissertations. Neither can find anything in the literature about "hoplophobia."
There are many specific phobias, which generally are considered to be "anxiety disorders." A phobia of sharp objects, weapons in general or firearms, is certainly part of the literature. While the symptoms are similar, the underlying causes may be varied. Early childhood experiences, over-protective parents, unexpressed anger, fear of loss of control, etc. all can result in a phobic reaction to a weapon.
One of the reasons why we don't know more about this and there is not much in the literature is that funding to research and write about the psychological aspects of guns is nearly impossible to find. I've had several top agents try to find a publisher for my writing a psychology of weapons sports as a sequel to my book IN DEFENSE OF HUNTING, which has sold over 50,000 copies. The only offers have come with advances that are less than one gets to publish an article telling a hunting or fishing story in a magazine. It is well-documented that martial arts training, which certainly could lead to violence, results in just the opposite. My guess is that if we could study weapons sportsmen, we would find something similar. Feb. 8, 2010.
James Swan, Ph.D.
Co-Executive Producer, "CA Game Wardens," Natl. Geographic TV, &
CEO, Snow Goose Productions
P.O. Box 2460
Mill Valley, CA, 94942
(415) 383-8210 fax
Jane Anne Shimzu, Marketing Director at Gunsite, in Paulden, Ariz., the world-class shooting academy established by Col. Cooper, writes on Feb. 2, 2010:
Alan, found this today in Cooper's Gargantuan Gossip II Dated 1997
"We read a notice from Canada to the effect that 'The purpose of anti-gun legislation is to establish
criminal supremacy over the citizen by awarding the goblins the status of being the sole armed caste
of the population.' The publisher has gone on to state that the time has come to ask ourselves what
is behind all this.
"Well, we know what motivates the hoplophobe. He simply envies the man who can cope where he, the
hoplophobe, cannot. A skilled, armed man lives on a plane of security and contentment different from
that of others. This is not egalitarian! The man who cannot cut it, envies, fears and sometimes
hates the man who can. This is all very clear, it is just a pity that so many people choose to hide
their perfidious motivation behind what they claim to be ãcrime control."
The Last Refuge for Hate: Gun
Author seeks to add hoplophobia
the official directory of mental ailments
by Alan Korwin, Author
Gun Laws of America
For Immediate Release 1/24/05
Email has been flooded recently with links to the Dept. of Justice study,
just released, that unambiguously finds the right to keep and bear arms
belongs to individual people.
The 214-year-old American right to keep and bear arms does not protect
some sort of collective, or assembled militias, or armed forces, or
a right of the states. Those newly minted arguments are now off the
table, wiped out, dead. RKBA is a right you and I have as individuals.
Ive gotten the link a dozen times already, you may have too, and
if not, here it is:
(main conclusions excerpted at end of this report)
However, since the bulk of resistance to the American right to arms
has its roots in a medical condition, no amount of history, legal analysis,
precedent, logic or argument will resolve the issue.
People who are terrified of and hate guns -- hoplophobes -- dont
care about anything rational, and we waste our time on such arguments.
They want guns to go away. They dont trust guns. They dont
trust people who have guns, and especially people who like guns. The
only exception is official people with guns, meaning, theyre
from the government, a source of relief.
I know, I know, thats irrational. But thats the nature of
the disease, and it will not be fixed by DOJ reports.
The more intelligent of the hoplophobes may give up their you-have-no-rights
argument due to the DOJ report, but it wont stop them one bit.
They will seize on anything else, because hoplophobia is an irrational
fear. Conveniently for them, the language of the report itself says
that the limits of this individual right have not been clearly defined.
To a hoplophobe, that means your right to arms can be legally limited
to a single gun, with a single round, that does not operate, and is
locked away, with government holding the key. And even that leaves them
We dont need more arguments or some DOJ paper that finds what
we already know and have exercised for two centuries. Oh, I guess the
intellectuals on our side will make some use of it, and it may have
some positive effects in some courts.
What we really need is research and medical-treatment programs for the
poor, unfortunate people who are terrified of guns, wont go near
guns, who would not defend themselves or their families if they had
to, and who, very plainly, hate guns.
Hate is a terrible thing.
It must be confronted vigorously, righteously, and in a forthright manner.
Logic and law do not confront hate, or help lessen it. We must learn
not to tolerate gun hate, anywhere we find it.
Hoplophobic behavior in government, schools, and all facets of public
life must be recognized for what it is, exposed, and rooted out or treated.
Seemingly utopian pacifists are free to profess their love of a weapon-free
world, but they must start by disarming the evil, criminal and tyrannical.
Disarming the general public is a vent for their twisted fear and hatred,
a grotesque affront to freedom, and unacceptable. Disarming an innocent person is an act of violence.
Guns save lives. Guns stop crime. Guns are why America is still free.
The history of freedom is inextricably tied to the development of weapons
(an interesting study, by the way, if you have the time to examine it).
Good people need guns. Efforts to end that are immoral and unjust, and
when done by government, is a direct failure to preserve, protect
and defend the Constitution. Thats a violation of the oath
of office, which should lead to removal from office and possibly even
The people we elect or hire for public service should be screened for
latent or overt gun hatred, and disqualified if such hatred is found,
before it can do any more harm to our nation and its values.
It is well past the time when the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual
of Mental Disorders), the catalog of recognized mental infirmities,
includes hoplophobia, in all its forms, and serious medical
research is conducted to identify and treat this pernicious condition
that threatens us all. The doctors among you should begin raising this
issue. If youre not a doctor but have one or two, ask them about
The opponents of gun rights come in four fundamental categories:
Utopian Idealists - Dreamers willing to ignore human nature (anger,
hostility, temper, greed, lust, hunger, poverty, want, megalomania,
social pathologies, etc.) in the vain hope for a world where no one
ever needs to defend themselves or others; Result: misguided efforts
to disarm the public since no one should ever be capable of exerting
lethal force for any reason. Fairly rare.
Routine Bigots - Ignorant gun haters who, generally, have never
actually seen a real gun much less fired one, and hate what they dont
know; strong corollaries with race haters; Result: Vigorous anti-rights
profile if left alone, however they often resolve their blind hatred
when education removes the ignorance -- frequent anecdotes of such folks
converting after their first time at a range. Quite common.
Hoplophobes -- Unfortunate souls afflicted with a phobic terror
of firearms, deserving of pity, and in need of medical attention; Result:
Though they should never be involved in setting policy on self defense,
national security, or Second Amendment rights, they often insinuate
themselves into such positions, their need for treatment goes unattended,
and they cause grevious social harm. Easily mistaken for plain bigots.
Power Mongers - Like some at the U.N or many anti-gun-rights
politicians, they know full well that an armed public interferes with
their plans, and they insidiously use lies about the gun issue, and
disarmament (of you but not them) as a road to peace as
a power base and source of support; Result: truly evil, tyrannts who
ultimately suppress human rights, contribute to global genocides, live
an elite lifestyle, care not for their fellow citizens. Rare but extremely
Its nice that the DOJ report came out.
The battle however lies elsewhere.
DOJ CONCLUSIONS: (from 125-page report)
For the foregoing reasons, we conclude that the Second Amendment secures
an individual right to keep and to bear arms...
...our examination of the original meaning of the Amendment provides
extensive reasons to conclude that the Second Amendment secures an individual
right, and no persuasive basis for either the collective-right or quasi-collective-right
The text of the Amendment's operative clause, setting out a "right
of the people to keep and bear Arms," is clear and is reinforced
by the Constitution's structure.
The Amendment's prefatory clause, properly understood, is fully consistent
with this interpretation.
The broader history of the Anglo-American right of individuals to have
and use arms, from England's Revolution of 1688-1689 to the ratification
of the Second Amendment a hundred years later, leads to the same conclusion.
Finally, the first hundred years of interpretations of the Amendment,
and especially the commentaries and case law in the pre-Civil War period
closest to the Amendment's ratification, confirm what the text and history
of the Second Amendment require.
"My own view on gun control is simple: I hate guns
and I cannot imagine why anybody would want to own one. If I had my
way, guns for sport would be registered, and all other guns would be
--Deborah Prothrow-Stith, Harvard School of Public Health
LISTEN TO THE GOOD DOCTOR:
Firearms instructor and Ph.D. psychologist Dr. Bruce Eimer
expands on the hoplophobia epidemic the nation is suffering under:
As a psychologist, I have been treating people with the emotional disorder of phobias for over 30 years. Phobias are emotional disorders characterized by an irrational fear of specific situations, activities or objects. They all have an underlying psychodynamic mechanism.
Weapons phobias originate typically in childhood as a result of traumatic experiences that lead the afflicted individual to feel markedly vulnerable around knives, guns, sticks, etc. They do not necessarily stem from the phobic person's being a victim of an assault although in many instances that is the case. Often, hoplohobics were abused emotionally and/or physically as children.
As a result of their fears of annihilation, they feel vulnerable and angry. They both fear others and themselves such that if they were to lose control, they would be a menace too. The adult rationalization defense mechanism makes it safer to displace these fears on to an inanimate object such as a gun. Hence, the psychological unconscious really believes that guns have agency and kill. The idea of factoring bad people into the equation: gun + bad person = destruction does not occur to the psychological unconscious. It is too threatening to the psychological unconscious. It's less threatening CONSCIOUSLY to blame problems on inaminate objects.
A reader writes -- Dr. Eimer, Thank you for the "Gun Therapy" article in the July 2010 Concealed Carry Magazine; I had never before made the connection between hoplophobia and projection. It's obvious enough that some people are terrified of firearms and some are terrified of anyone having firearms but it never crossed my mind that someone would be terrified that they themselves could have access to firearms! --MM
Bruce N. Eimer, Ph.D.
NRA Certified Law Enforcement Firearms Instructor
Affiliate Instructor, Defense Training International, Inc.
Utah Concealed Firearms Certified Instructor
NRA Life Member
Column Editor for "Concealed Carry Magazine"
Board Certified, Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Chief Firearms Instructor, Personal Defense Solutions, LLC
P.O. Box 6
Huntingdon Valley, PA 19006
Tel: 215-938-7283 Fax: 215-947-7860
Company Website: PersonalDefenseSolutions.net
Blogs: PersonalDefenseBlog.com GuideToHandguns.com
Check out our DefensiveHandguns.com Discussion Forum.
Sign up for FREE access to Dr. Eimer's Concealed Carry Information Arsenal: PersonalDefenseSolutions.net/mailinglist.htm
This last point is an important one, typically missed in literature on the subject, and first brought to my attention by a person suffering from hoplophobia. His greatest fear was that he might gain access to a firearm, and would not be able to control himself for it.
Like the roiling self-destructive urge to throw yourself off the edge of a high place, and the love-of-life sanity that prevents you from doing so, hoplophobes lack certain mental stability and capacity to act rationally around guns that most people innately have. A hoplophobe fears, and actually might, grab an accessible gun and either blow their own brains out or begin shooting wildly at their surroundings. "The gun made me do it," they fear and believe, fantasizing their own control of themselves away to an inanimate object, and denying any responsibility for their own actions. They project this lack of control they feel onto others. Hence, an overwhelming dread of the idea that people are out there in the world, with arms either tucked safely away at home, or safely carried on their persons. To a hoplophobe on the precipice of acting out a mortal fantasy, that’s anything but safe.
This fear leads many to political activism, in the vain hope of banning guns for everyone, so their own morbid fantasy cannot be realized. It is irrational of course, because even a total ban on guns in this country would leave all the rest of the world's gun makers in business. All the world's criminals would remain fully armed, all the world's armies and political forces would hold all the guns they could ever possibly want. Hoplophobes should be no more involved in setting gun policy than any other phobic person should be materially involved in the subject of their fears. Hoplophobes deserve pity, sympathy, and need treatment, not statutes. --Alan.
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