Anxious People With Guns Revisited

My last entry on guns and anxiety drew more responses than all of my previous columns put together. I would like to respond en masse to some of the spirited critiques that came my way.

I am not opposed to guns or gun ownership. But I am opposed to the unlimited availability of certain kinds of weapons; i.e; those that can enable one person to kill or maim large numbers of human beings in the amount of time it is taking you to read this blog entry. Target practice and hunting can certainly be accomplished with less firepower. As for self defense- I suppose it depends on who or what you think you’ll be defending yourself against.

I didn’t realize at the time that what I intended as a tongue in cheek commentary about human irrationality would be experienced as an insult by some readers. I suppose that I am so acclimated to the universality of irrational behavior that I was insensitive to the fact that, for some, to raise the possibility that not everything we do makes sense comes across as an exercise in name-calling. From my perspective, being irrational is not the same as being crazy. Neither is being anxious. They are aspects of the human condition.

One of my critics speculated on my mental state at the time I wrote my column. Fair enough. He commented that I was feeling anxious and desiring to do something to be part of the solution, not the problem. That’s half right. Following the Newtown massacre I was not feeling anxious so much as helpless and sick at heart. I had to do something. And I suppose that one way I dealt with my feeling of helplessness was to type out an op-ed piece that was perceived by some as a cheap shot., which invited a response in kind (e.g., “You’re the crazy one.”) But here’s the thing. My cheap shot was with words, as were those sent back my way.

Freud said that “The first human who hurled an insult instead of a stone was the founder of civilization.” I don’t know what the shooters are feeling before they cross the line. I suspect for some it’s a massive version of the helplessness that I experience in response to their actions, doing to others as they feel was done to them. For better and worse, that’s how people seem to operate.

Of course it’s not just the guns. It’s mental illness, desensitization to violence, family dysfunction, economic hardship and mystery factors x,y,z…, But while we are figuring this out, I do suspect that the likelihood of taking dozens of innocent lives would be much diminished if we made an attempt to control some of the weapons that have replaced stones, and that all too often fall into the hands of those who have, for whatever reason, decided to give up on words. .

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