"You don't need to have a gun; the police will protect you."

"If people carry guns, there will be murders over parking spaces and neighbourhood basketball games."

"I'm a pacifist. Enlightened, spiritually aware people shouldn't own guns."

"I'd rather be raped than have some redneck militia type try to rescue me."

How often have you heard these statements from misguided advocates of victim disarmament, or even woefully uninformed relatives and neighbours? Why do people cling so tightly to these beliefs, in the face of incontrovertible evidence that they are wrong? Why do they get so furiously angry when gun owners point out that their arguments are factually and logically incorrect?

How can you communicate with these people who seem to be out of touch with reality and rational thought?

One approach to help you deal with anti-gun people is to understand their psychological processes. Once you understand why these people behave so irrationally, you can communicate more effectively with them.






By Sarah Thompson, M.D.


Defence Mechanisms




About a year ago I received an e-mail from a member of a local Jewish organization. The author, who chose to remain anonymous, insisted that people have no right to carry firearms because he didn't want to be murdered if one of his neighbours had a "bad day". (I don't know that this person is a "he", but I'm assuming so for the sake of simplicity.) I responded by asking him why he thought his neighbours wanted to murder him, and, of course, got no response. The truth is that he's statistically more likely to be murdered by a neighbour who doesn't legally carry a firearm1 and more likely to be shot accidentally by a law enforcement officer.1

How does my correspondent "know" that his neighbours would murder him if they had guns? He doesn't. What he was really saying was that if he had a gun, he might murder his neighbours if he had a bad day, or if they took his parking space, or played their stereos too loud. This is an example of what mental health professionals call projection – unconsciously projecting one's own unacceptable feelings onto other people, so that one doesn't have to own them.3 In some cases, the intolerable feelings are projected not onto a person, but onto an inanimate object, such as a gun,4 so that the projector believes the gun itself will murder him.

Projection is a defence mechanism. Defence mechanisms are unconscious psychological mechanisms that protect us from feelings that we cannot consciously accept.5 They operate without our awareness, so that we don't have to deal consciously with "forbidden" feelings and impulses. Thus, if you asked my e-mail correspondent if he really wanted to murder his neighbours, he would vehemently deny it, and insist that other people want to kill him.

Projection is a particularly insidious defence mechanism, because it not only prevents a person from dealing with his own feelings, it also creates a world where he perceives everyone else as directing his own hostile feelings back at him.6

All people have violent, and even homicidal, impulses. For example, it's common to hear people say "I'd like to kill my boss", or "If you do that one more time I'm going to kill you." They don't actually mean that they're going to, or even would, kill anyone; they're simply acknowledging anger and frustration. All of us suffer from fear and feelings of helplessness and vulnerability. Most people can acknowledge feelings of rage, fear, frustration, jealousy, etc. without having to act on them in inappropriate and destructive ways.

Some people, however, are unable consciously to admit that they have such "unacceptable" emotions. They may have higher than average levels of rage, frustration, or fear. Perhaps they fear that if they acknowledge the hostile feelings, they will lose control and really will hurt someone. They may believe that "good people" never have such feelings, when in fact all people have them.

This is especially true now that education "experts" commonly prohibit children from expressing negative emotions or aggression. Instead of learning that such emotions are normal, but that destructive behaviour needs to be controlled, children now learn that feelings of anger are evil, dangerous and subject to severe punishment.7To protect themselves from "being bad", they are forced to use defence mechanisms to avoid owning their own normal emotions. Unfortunately, using such defence mechanisms inappropriately can endanger their mental health; children need to learn how to deal appropriately with reality, not how to avoid it.8

(This discussion of psychological mechanisms applies to the average person who is uninformed, or misinformed, about firearms and self-defenceIt does not apply to the anti- gun ideologue. Fanatics like Charles Schumer know the facts about firearms, and advocate victim disarmament consciously and wilfully in order to gain political power. This psychological analysis does not apply to them.)


In Australia, self-defence is no longer a permissible reason to obtain a licence for a weapon.







Dr. Thompson is Executive Director of Utah Gun Owners Alliance, and also writes The Righter,, a monthly column on individual rights.


1 Lott, John R., Jr. 1998. More Guns, Less Crime. University of Chicago Press. Pp. 11-12; Proposition B: More Security Or Greater Danger?, St. Louis Post-Dispatch. March 21, 1999.

2 Lott 1998, Pp. 1-2.

3 Kaplan, Harold M. and Sadock, Benjamin J. 1990. Pocket Handbook of Clinical Psychiatry. Williams & Wilkins. P. 20.

4Brenner, Charles. 1973. An Elementary Textbook of Psychoanalysis (rev. ed.). Anchor Books. Pp. 91-93; Lefton, Lester A. 1994. Psychology (5th edition). Allyn & Bacon. Pp. 432-433.

5 Brenner 1973. P. 91.

6 Kaplan and Sadock 1990, p. 20; Lefton 1994, p. 432.

7 Talbott, John A., Robert E. Hales and Stuart C. Yudofsky, eds. 1988. Textbook of Psychiatry. American Psychiatric Press. P.137.

8 "Kids Suspended for Playground Game." Associated Press. April 6, 2000.