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Hoplophobia, from the Greek hoplon, or weapon, is defined as the "fear of firearms" [1] or alternatively, a fear of weapons in general, and describes a specific phobia.


[edit] Political usage

Firearms instructor Colonel Jeff Cooper coined the word in 1962 to describe a "mental disturbance characterized by irrational aversion to weapons". [2] Cooper employed the clinical-sounding term as an alternative to 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 the irrational fear of firearms and other forms of weaponry. He stated that "the most common manifestation of hoplophobia is the idea that instruments possess a will of their own, apart from that of their user."

Despite the clinical term, the word is generally used to describe gun control advocates, who may or may not have a genuine fear of guns, but rather wish to ban guns as a deterrent to violent crime. In these cases the term is a misnomer, because the fear is not of the weapon, but of criminals who can and do use weapons. It is mildly derogatory, less so than similar slang terms such as those mentioned above. It is most commonly used as a pejorative by gun rights advocates.

Some admirers of Cooper's coinage have sought to popularize the counterpart terminology, hoplophilia for an affection towards guns which verges on or achieves a fullblown paraphilia. [3]

[edit] Clinical usage

However, in spite of the political connotation of the term, there is a possibility for a person to have this phobia in a purely clinical sense. For instance, a patient that has no opinion on law or public policy per se, but becomes terrified when they notice a policemen's sidearm or a photograph of a rifle or knife. Such a phobia may be present, for instance, in someone who suffers from PTSD in relation to a traumatic experience involving a firearm. Hoplophobia is described as an uncommon phobia in Contemporary Diagnosis And Management of Anxiety Disorders [4].

Clinical psychologist Dr. Bruce Eimer had the following to say[5] on the subject of clinical hoplophobia:

Leftquot.png Many gun control advocates believe that only two types of folks have guns—cops and criminals. I grew up in New York City where this was and still is the prevailing view. People who believe that non-sworn citizens should not be allowed to own guns also tend to believe that anyone who owns a gun and is not a cop is a suspect. Thus, you often hear the sarcastic refrain from people whose lives have been threatened; “What should I do, buy a gun?” Most of these folks fear firearms due to ignorance and their socialization. However, there is a larger group of folks who have an irrational fear (aka, “phobia”) of firearms (aka, “hoplophobia”).

I have met and also treated many such folks. As a board-certified licensed clinical psychologist with over 30 years of clinical and academic experience, I think hoplophobia should be added as a diagnostic category to the Anxiety and Phobia Disorders section of the soon to be published revised edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders—DSM-V.

Given my dual clinical and academic training as both a Behavioral and Psychoanalytic/Freudian psychologist and psychotherapist, I know that “hoplophobia” (fear of firearms or firearm phobia) is real. It is as real as arachnophobia (fear of spiders), ophidiophobia (snake phobia), dentophobia (fear of dentists), aichmophobia (needle phobia), androphobia (fear of men), cynophobia (dog phobia), entomophobia (fear of insects), and ideophobia (fear of ideas). However, hoplophobia may be more widespread than all of the above mentioned with the exception of ideophobia, and unlike most of these other phobias, hoplophobia pervades every level of our society and poses a serious threat to our Constitutional Second Amendment and First Amendment rights.

As a clinical psychologist, I know that what hoplophobics really fear is their own conscious and unconscious murderous rage. As with the psychodynamics of every true phobia, the hoplophobic person’s psychological defense mechanisms unconsciously project his or her rage onto other people and objects. In this case, the objects of choice are firearms. Only some hoplophobics are insightful enough to recognize, as one pro-gun control physician stated that, “I don’t own a gun because if I did, I’d definitely shoot someone.” He is right. He and others like him should definitely NOT own firearms. But, this is not a matter for legislation. It is about having good sense and perhaps, psychotherapy – because after all, that is what good psychotherapeutic treatment is all about.

Dr. Bruce Eimer, 2009

[edit] See also

[edit] Notes and references

  1. Segen, Joseph C: Concise Dictionary of Modern Medicine, Page 307. McGraw-Hill Medical, 2005. ISBN 0838515355
  2. "The root of the evil", "To Ride, Shoot Straight, and Speak The Truth", Jeff Cooper, Gunsite Press, 1990. ISBN 0873649737
  3. http://www.panikon.com/phurba/articles/propose.html E. R. Gendler, "Proposed New Words for the English Language"
  4. Nina, Philip T; Dunlop, Broadie W: Contemporary Diagnosis And Management of Anxiety Disorders, Page 107. Handbooks in Health Care, 2006. ISBN 1931981620
  5. Eimer, Bruce, "Hoplophobia Is A Real Problem" personaldefenseblog.com, 06/01/2009

[edit] External links

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