Is Gun-Love a Mental Illness?

The recent mass shooting in Santa Barbara will surely start a fresh round of battle for the American gun debate. Gun-enthusiasts are already jumping to the defense of guns with their tried-and-true methods of aggressive deflection…and why not? It’s been working quite well for the NRA, as instead of legislation supporting background checks or enforced registration, laws allowing for easier purchase and public carrying are the order of the day. Those of us who campaign for gun-regulation find ourselves outnumbered in public forums and legislative bodies. I often assume that most who might oppose gun-proponents either become intimidated by the bullying tactics or frustrated by a lack of acknowledgement of a problem with guns in our country. It’s the height of defeatism to acknowledge that mass-shootings will continue to occur…but they will, and they are occurring with more regularity. There does seem to be consensus on this fact from both sides of the debate.

I find myself asking the following questions, and I follow with my opinionated answers:

Are increased mass-shootings occurring because of more guns in our country or increased mental illness in our society?

Many of the arguments from the NRA ask us to consider increased attention on mental illness instead of taking guns away from responsible citizens. According to the NRA, television, movies, and video games create an environment of encouraged violence, not gun-proliferation. There is a sickness in our American society, for which we cannot blame the gun. This sickness is mentally-based and prolific, and more individuals are succumbing to mental illness. Yet, the NRA appeals to the psychologically-undiagnosed gun owner under the assumption that he is unaffected by the social environment. In order to defend ourselves, the psychologically-balanced must arm themselves to shoot the mentally-ill gun-users in defense. More guns are sold within a country that is already heavily-armed. More Americans succumb to psychosis generated by a violence-inducing culture. It seems that only after the fact of a mass-shooting we can verify a mentally-ill individual, not prior…and more guns are needed to thwart the mentally-ill. We might assume that both gun-proliferation and increased mental illness are to blame for an increase in mass shootings, not just one component.

Why do we assume that mental-illness and gun-ownership are two mutually-exclusive conditions that are not affective of each other?

A key component of the NRA’s argument to focus on mental illness is the assumption that responsible gun-owners are not capable of succumbing to mental illness. This is central to the problem of curing mental illness in our country. It is difficult to understand how pervasive mental illness is in our community. According to the Mental Health Association, one in five Americans suffer from mental depression, and many Americans with depression are undiagnosed. It is easy for Americans to deny they might be mentally-ill; in fact, it is encouraged by many of our social messages. “Snap out of your funk.” “You’ll be fine.” “Buck up and be a man.” “Stop being a cry-baby.” “Get back to work, like a good American.” “Strap yourself in order to defend yourself.” Most Americans are encouraged to hide their mental depression, and violent episodes usually become the most objective evidence of mental illness of an individual. The NRA further propagates this denial of mental illness in its defense of gun-ownership. The NRA should further consider how their agenda for gun-proliferation can also affect the social policies, norms, mores, and laws, within our environment, that increase mental depression and violent episodes in its citizens. Personally, I find myself suffering more and more agoraphobia within the NRA’s version of America.

If we need to focus on mental illness as the primary cause of mass shootings, and mental illness is becoming more prevalent, then why would we want more guns in more citizens’ hands without regulatory psychological examinations?

The assumption of gun-proponents is that gun-opponents want to take their guns away. They fail to listen to the suggestion of implementing background checks and gun regulation in order to decrease public gun violence. I personally have testified on numerous occasions that it is legitimately lawful for a home-owner to possess a gun if they want to defend their self, family, and property, as long as they lawfully register the gun, take gun-safety training, pass psychological examinations, and practice safe gun-ownership on their own private property. A citizen should be able to decide if they want to have a gun in their house; conversely, a citizen should also be able to decide to not have a gun in their home because he thinks it is safer not to own one, as several studies concerning inter-familial murders and suicides have supported. The problem with many of these mass shootings is that they take place in public, where there is not any choice by the victims. If the second amendment protects gun-ownership, then it should be reserved for the citizen’s property, not his neighbor’s. For the protection of the public trust, it is certainly necessary to determine if individuals are psychologically stable enough to carry arms in public. It should not be assumed that an American consumer is both mentally-stable and responsible when purchasing a tool that is designed to maim, destroy, and kill. It should be assumed that an educated American consumer is purchasing arms for three reasons only: 1) to protect one’s property, 2) to hunt responsibly, or 3) to use in sporting competitions. Regulation of guns is necessary to ensure that guns are only used for these purposes by an American citizen who is not a soldier or duly-appointed law officer/security guard (and I think the second Amendment should be rewritten to reflect this…though I know gun-proponents think that would be like re-writing the Bible). Any extension beyond these three criteria contributes to the furtherance of gun violence in public. Promoting a lack of regulation will increase the American misuse of firearms, and it will continue to generate more mass-killings, more failed vigilantism, and more innocent deaths. Those of us who choose not to arm ourselves will have to live in fear of our lives because those who block regulatory legislation have taken the choice to avoid gun violence away from us.

How would gun-proponents react if they were told they could not own a gun because they have demonstrated mentally-ill tendencies?

Many gun-owners promote themselves as law-abiding citizens. I suspect much of the antagonism against gun-regulation comes from the idea that American law will likely change regarding gun-ownership. Citizens who love guns and possess guns might be told they can no longer purchase guns, or they will have to forfeit the guns they already possess. If criteria for designated psychological traits are created that prevent gun-ownership for potentially violent individuals, then I suspect a lot of psychologically-imbalanced, violent individuals will become law-breakers…and here’s the boiling point of the American gun debate: we cannot conceivably agree on psychological criteria for citizens who might be too mentally unstable to own a firearm. If we designate a tendency for violence as a criterion, then we might assume that having a large gun collection or an overwhelming fascination with guns as legitimate indicators. If we examine rhetoric of an individual to determine rational thought and mental stability, then the inductive/deductive claims of NRA supporters and gun-proponents might work against them in determining their ability to possess a firearm. If we create psychological exams to determine who might be most insensitive of taking another’s life with a firearm, then we might learn that many existing American gun-owners are the most willing to engage in a gun-battle, and most self-confident about taking another human life. If we want to curb gun violence by determining who is psychologically stable enough to possess a gun in public, then we might be disappointed to learn that the majority of Americans do not qualify to safely own a gun.

Why are gun proponents so adamant in defense of gun-ownership when mass-shootings occur?

Santa Barbara is the latest, but I’ve already examined multiple arguments online and in the news made by gun-proponents who hope to deflect attention away from their precious guns. I’ve made it a habit of examining the comments sections of many a legitimate online gun-related article, where gun-enthusiasts flood the internet with their attacks on gun-opponents. As a blog-writer of many subjects, I’ve found that my essays promoting gun-control have primarily been examined and attacked. There is a passion for guns in this country, and even minimal scrutiny will indicate this for the casual observer. I often wonder what the motivation for this is. Out of all of the debates occurring in this country, I’ve found that mentioning gun regulation generates the most attention. I understand the legitimate claim of gun-ownership for protection, but certainly the enthusiasm against gun-control cannot be generated out of a passion to secure one’s self. Within most internet comments, I observe a subjective love for the inanimate object of a gun. I often assume a personal relationship of the gun-defender with his own weapon. This relationship is adoring, to the point that it seems to reflect a love for the weapon over the love a person might have for human life (other than a gun-defender’s own life, of course). A gun-defender defends his right to own a gun as passionately as he might defend his own child. I have concluded that it is subjective love of guns that motivate the gun-defender, and it has been confirmed by the frequency of gun-defenders’ rhetoric generated in the American gun debate.

Why are their arguments so aggressive and dismissive?

Examining the subjective love gun-proponents have for their guns, I have deduced two commonalities. The first is that gun-love inspires aggressive, antagonistic claims. Most of the comments of gun-proponents are designed to defeat the opponent. I often correlate the tendency of violent rhetoric with possession of a gun, and perhaps it is unfair to do so…however, a psychological profile of one who possesses a gun might indicate a tendency to aggressively bully those who do not possess a gun. Certainly we might assume that a man that has a gun strapped to his person might display more confidence in public exchanges. I often assume that possessing a gun enables more aggressive rhetoric, and the comments I read do not debunk my assumption of aggressive tendencies for gun-proponents one iota. Second, gun-proponents are adamantly stubborn about their position. They do not regard rational opposition or consider the validity of logical retort. They rehash the same tired arguments, even after they have been thoroughly debunked. Gun-proponents simply do not listen, electing to assume their aggression and fervor will win the argument. Perhaps, gun-possession creates a loss of hearing or lack of comprehension. I certainly believe that gun-love can selfishly create willful ignorance and dismissive tendencies. These two commonalities—sustained aggression and dismissive apathy—can be designated as psychologically deficient in any person, gun-owner or gun-abstainer. I notice these two traits are present in the majority of gun-owners in their rhetorical representations.

Couldn’t we assume that being a “gun-nut” might, in fact, demonstrate legitimate craziness?

I do not like using the term “gun-nut” or “crazy” because it is too easy to utter…and it too frequently escalates the ire of gun-proponents. However, I often find myself succumbing to my frustration by calling gun-proponents “gun-nuts” or “crazy” after sustained debate…and usually it comes after gun-proponents have labeled me a “leftist, liberal nut” or “a crazy gun-control freak.” We obviously have a problem designating mental illness in this country. The Santa Barbara shooter “suffered” from misogyny and ostracization…if he was mentally ill, then there are too many potential mentally-ill male shooters existing about us today. Many gun-proponents seem to want to defend their right to be able to shoot someone whom they find to be threatening…I do assume this might be the start of legitimately insane thinking, as I know from conversations with soldiers and police officers how debilitating it can be to the psyche to take someone’s life with a gun, enemy or otherwise. I know I could not fire a gun at another human being…and I have been designated as foolish for confessing this. Apparently, based on my interactions with gun-proponents, it is crazy for me to want to avoid getting shot. It is crazy for me to want my neighbor not to be shot. It is crazy for me to want to end gun violence in the American public. It is most crazy for me to call for a reduction of guns instead of an increase in guns within the American public. Gun-proponents think gun-control advocates are nuts. Gun-opponents think gun-enthusiasts are crazy. If both sides are mentally-ill, then we will never be able to properly designate mental illness or mentally-unstable gun-owners. If we’re all crazy, then mental illness becomes the norm…and arming everybody who is crazy will certainly result in greater mass shootings (which should succinctly silence the NRA’s argument to arm more citizens, but of course, does not). We defeat the purpose of the argument by cavalierly calling each other crazy.

Is a love of guns a legitimate mental illness?

So the question I ask boils down to this: Is gun-love a legitimate mental illness? I pray that it is not. I reserve hope that gun-proponents will acknowledge their gun-love and concede that their stance might be illegitimate. I wish for a cessation of aggressive rhetoric and fervent dismissal of gun-control rationale. But most of all, I hesitate to conclude that gun-love is an indicator of mental illness out of pure, unadulterated fear. If gun-love is indeed a mental illness, then at least half of America suffers from this stubborn psychosis…maybe more than half.

Physicians and psychologists have difficulty mapping the human brain and its frailties, using objective tactics. The difficulties of the human condition might be blamed on the emotionally subjective products of the human brain…and gun-love is certainly a subjective product which cannot be practically, objectively mapped for better study of the American character.

I find no edification and must succumb to circular reasoning. I return to the premise of my first question. We have the difficult “nature vs. nurture” problem to consider about the American gun problem. Are gun-users mentally ill because of their individually diseased mind, or is the proliferation of guns and American culture to blame? With careful choice of my words, I can testify to one personal conclusion only: the American gun debate is driving me legitimately insane, if I wasn’t crazy at the start.

{If you appreciated this writing and want to help support the continuation of this blog, please consider sending a donation to:

Scott C. Guffey
P.O. Box 53
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7 comments

  1. It’s been working quite well for the NRA, as instead of legislation supporting background checks or enforced registration, l

    Did it skip your attention that this took place in California? The Highest Rated State according to the Brady Campaign for restrictive gun control laws?

    Those of us who campaign for gun-regulation find ourselves outnumbered in public forums and legislative bodies. I often assume that most who might oppose gun-proponents either become intimidated by the bullying tactics or frustrated by a lack of acknowledgement of a problem with guns in our country.

    Perhaps or perhaps it is simply that anti-rights cultists like yourself are actually in the minority and that once people find out what your proposals are really about; they no longer support them?

    Are increased mass-shootings occurring because of more guns in our country or increased mental illness in our society?

    False statement — mass shootings are not increasing. Now coverage of shootings has definitely increased.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2012/12/17/graph-of-the-day-perhaps-mass-shootings-arent-becoming-more-common/

    At least some of the shootings; you don’t see the national coverage of Chicago for example that this one shooting garnered. Chicago had over 500 homicides in a single year — most of them firearm related; why isn’t that being reported with all the gory details ?

    1. I suspect this is the work of my old friend, LWK, who seems to be a little obsessed with my writing against guns. This comment holds true to his tendency to pick and choose statements out of context without regarding the entireity of my content, in an attempt to attack me. He’d be happy to note I’ve been paying attention to his blog as well; in fact, his latest writing (now removed) about opening a new government-supported department called FA (Fuck America), in which Sandra Fluke as Chairwoman could convince young women to sexually satisfy young men in order to prevent Santa Barbara, helped convince me that gun-proponents might be mentally ill (as if taking a picture down the barrel of your gun and titling it the “eye of God” wasn’t proof enough). I was expecting his comment, but a little disappointed that it took over four hours.

      1. Wrong, NOT LWK.

        Of course, had you try to actually do a moment’s work (click on the NAME for example) it would have taken you to my place holder blog. My standard blog is down temporarily for connectivity issues.

        As for as focusing on one statement, I had other things to do. I could be here all day deconstructing these arguments.

        If we need to focus on mental illness as the primary cause of mass shootings, and mental illness is becoming more prevalent, then why would we want more guns in more citizens’ hands without regulatory psychological examinations?

        No evidence that Mental illness is becoming more prevalent has been introduced and certainly not cited. Medical professionals do seem to be trying to make any and every variation a mental illness though.

        So which is cause and which is effect? The graph I cited (see evidence) clearly shows that mass shooting are not increasing; defeating the idea this argument is based on.

        Second, are you and everyone else willing to place your freedoms in the hands of the medical professionals or do you just want to limit it to the ‘right to keep and bear arms’.
        Hands and feet are used more often to kill people then rifles or shotguns; does that mean every person needs a clean bill of mental health before they are allowed to exercise any freedom?

        I would expect you to lead the way and post the results from your mental health exam.
        How often will you be examined, what disqualifying conditions will land you in the hospital? Let’s talk some details how you’ll prove you are safe to be in public, eh.

        Bob S.
        3 Boxes of BS

      2. Alas, I have become confused by the tactics of yet another gun-proponent, because it seems that they are all similar in their aggressive, dismissive manner. Forgive me for confusing you with another potentially mentally-ill gun proponent, as you perfectly mimic his style of argument…and I did click on your link, and I remain unconvinced you are not who I assume you to be…but fair enough. I will momentarily give you the benefit of the doubt. I’ll give you the same conditions I gave LWK. I will respond to your comments, but if you continue to attack me after I respond to you, you will be banned from my blog. Otherwise, I will allow you to retain your post on my blog indefinitely (especially since your time is best spent doing other things, like not obsessing over my blog).

        Your first comment referenced Chicago, where I live. The shootings here are all reported, I watch every one of them, and they are included in my opinions on guns and public shootings. No dilemma there.

        As I’ve stated in plenty of my writings, I appreciate qualification in one’s use of rhetoric. You state that there is no evidence of an increase in public shootings or increase in mental illness. We’ve had Santa Barbara, Atlanta, Sandy Hook, Fort Hood (twice), Aurora, Virginia Tech, Columbine, Chicago (by your own admission), and many, many more. I tend to rely on my own archives instead of accepting studies that are often generated by collegiates who are funded by political groups. As a college profesor, I realize that manufactured data is easy to create to meet the needs of a political group (like the NRA) who are willing to cut a large paycheck. I rely on observations, and there happens to be some evidence that public shootings, wholly caused by mentally ill shooters, are increasing.

        As for your comparison of hands/feet to rifles/shotguns, I can’t help but think how ridiculous that sounds. Can a gun be fired without the use of hands (or feet, since you brought it up)? Since you brought up the Second amendment and the right to bear arms, I’d like you to consider how it is written: the right to bear arms is for the purpose of creating a partisan militia. Some gun-proponents suggest this is so we can oppose the government, in case tyranny prevents us from owning arms apparently. Our United States military has the ability to fire nuclear arms. Notice how the word “arms” can apply to nukes. According to the Second amendment, U.S. citizens should have the right to bear nuclear arms in order to fortify a partisan militia and oppose the government. Should we allow everybody who wants to arm themselves with a nuclear weapon the opportunity, based on the second amendment? I realize how ridiculous this sounds, but literal interpretation of the Second amendment supports this. I don’t think asking for regulation of firearms prevents an exercise of freedom; I do think lack of regulation and proliferation of guns might prevent citizens’ rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” as victims of gun violence are now dead, Bob.

        Finally, I do not have a clean bill of mental health, Bob. I suffer from mental depression frequently (if you read yesterday’s blog, then you might have some indication why.). I attempt pacifism and meditation, along with psychiatric appointments, in order to handle my mental illness. I do not have a tendency for violence, but I would accept a psychological determination that says I cannot own a handgun…and that’s the problem: I’m not worried about someone diagnosing my mental illnesses (or taking away my guns, for that matter). You attempt to shame me by suggesting I am crazy, which is a little strange, considering I admit that I am maniacal in the title of my blog. If I was worried about what people think about my sanity, then it’d be silly to post my rantings for the world to see…

        Okay, Bob. You’ve got one opportunity to convince me with whatever new appeal for gun-advocacy that I haven’t encountered yet…if you feel up to it. Refrain from antagonism, and I might just keep regarding your argument. Use aggression, insults, or mockery, and that’ll be the end of it.

  2. You’ve got one opportunity to convince me with whatever new appeal for gun-advocacy that I haven’t encountered yet

    Nothing I say or do will convince you; will it?
    You’ve already made up your mind. You’ve locked into a narrow view of what the 2nd Amendment should or shouldn’t be and aren’t really open to changing your mind.

    I rely on observations, and there happens to be some evidence that public shootings, wholly caused by mentally ill shooters, are increasing.

    Case in point; there are many reasons for the ‘evidence’ that public shootings caused by mentally ill shooters is increasing without there being an actual increase in shootings but you don’t want to evaluate real factual evidence. Nope, your ‘observations’ are more important than facts.

    According to the Second amendment, U.S. citizens should have the right to bear nuclear arms in order to fortify a partisan militia and oppose the government. Should we allow everybody who wants to arm themselves with a nuclear weapon the opportunity, based on the second amendment? I realize how ridiculous this sounds, but literal interpretation of the Second amendment supports this.

    Actually I agree with you. The correct reading of the 2nd Amendment supports the idea that individuals can own thermonuclear warheads. As long as they keep them properly maintained and serviced; I don’t see a problem.
    We allow people to own poisons; don’t we? Each and every house normally has dozens of chemicals that could kill dozens or more. Mixed together those chemicals could kill thousands.
    We allow people to fly airplanes; remember how 9/11/01 happened? Despite the fact that airplanes are dangerous. Liberty mandates we allow people to do dangerous things.

    I don’t think asking for regulation of firearms prevents an exercise of freedom; I do think lack of regulation and proliferation of guns might prevent citizens’ rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” as victims of gun violence are now dead, Bob.

    That ‘right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ is not a guarantee that you won’t die or be killed. And remember the Constitution is not a document limiting the ability of other citizens to act but limiting the power and ability of the Government to act.

    How many people would be dead if we didn’t have that right to keep and bear arms? You look at only the negative and see only negative results. You ignore the thousands of lives saved each year, the thousands of crimes prevented or stopped. The National Crime Victim Survey found at least 108,000 Defensive Gun uses per year. The Kleck and Gertz Survey found up to 2,500,000. How about the rights of the gun owners; don’t they also have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

    When rights — more accurately the ability to act — collide, we have a simple mechanism for dealing with that; the justice system. We limit the power of the government to restrain people and list the appropriate punishment for bad acts.

    You admit to mental illness and still exercise your rights; yet you want to limit gun owners in one area. Why?

    Why not limit every mentally ill person like yourself? You have to admit that the odds of a criminal act being perpetuated are higher for a mentally ill person than someone who isn’t.

    What ‘right’ do you have to endanger the lives of others by remaining free and uncontrollled by close supervision?

    Shouldn’t you have to have every blog post checked before posting to make sure you aren’t going to be the next mass murderer?
    Shouldn’t your driver’s license be revoked to keep you from harming others ? More people are killed in vehicle related incidents then firearm related incidents.

    You’ll probably deny that you should be limited in any significant way– ironically while calling for gun owners to be so limited.

    Sorry but I really don’t think I’ll convince you of a darn thing.

    Maybe I’ll give your readers something to think about though.

    Bob S.
    3 Boxes of BS

    1. I am perfectly willing to change my mind; I would not be so invested in this argument if I had not thoroughly examined the issue of guns, looking for a viable answer to gun violence WITHOUT taking guns away from citizens…and regulation is not the perfect solution, but it’s better than the status quo. I wish you’d read my article in its entireity instead of just picking and choosing the points you feel offended by…you’ll notice my frustration with gun-proponents’ unwillingness to concede to any point towards regulation. If any group is stubbornly planted in their ideology, it seems to be gun-advocates…and you’re doing nothing to assuage me of that notion. In my article, you’ll notice that I have considered the rights of gun-owners to defend themselves and their property thoroughly…and I don’t want to infringe on that right.

      I also believe in Americans’ right to free speech and expression. I’ll go ahead and let your statement be the final word. My readers can decide for themselves whose argument is most legitimate. I hope they will note how you don’t see any problem with arming citizens with nukes.

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