Hoplophobia Defined


Hoplophobia is defined as an irrational fear of weapons, including but not limited to firearms. There have been a number of attempts by mental health professionals, who are not hoplophobes themselves, to explain the underlying psychology of gun haters.


Hoplohobic defense mechanisms

These theories essentially boil down to the idea that hoplohobes’ behaviors are driven by several conscious and unconscious psychological defense mechanisms. A psychological defense mechanism is a mental process, typically initiated unconsciously, the purpose of which is to avoid conscious conflict or anxiety. It is brought into play so that a person can cope with reality and maintain a functional self-image.

Anxiety and fear are the core elements of Hoplophobia

People cope with anxiety and fear in one or more of three ways. They fight, flee, or freeze. Hoplophobes who mainly cope by fighting tend to become vocal gun haters. Hoplophobes who mainly cope by fleeing tend to become anxiety sufferers. And hoplophobes who mainly cope by freezing tend to become victims. In the face of real threats and dangers, either fighting or fleeing can be adaptive depending on the situation—freezing never is! 

The way phobic people think

Anyone with a phobia tends to think irrationally and reason emotionally when it comes to the object of their phobia. The thought pattern goes something like this: “This thing or situation, e.g., spiders, red sweaters, guns, public speaking, flying, driving a motor vehicle is dangerous and makes me feel very uncomfortable. I cannot stand to feel this way. Therefore, I must avoid it.” Because phobic people keep avoiding what they are afraid of, they never get to test out if it really is that dangerous or if they really cannot stand to deal with it. Their avoidance reinforces their phobic avoidant behavior by reducing their anxiety. 


The way hoplophobes think

Hoplophobes think about guns as more than just being dangerous. Guns are supposed to be dangerous. That is why people should not handle guns unless they have adequate training and follow unyielding safety rules. Hoplophobes have greatly exaggerated and illogical thought patterns when it comes to firearms. Here are some examples.

To a hoplophobe, a gun is not just a weapon:

It is a concentrated death dealing blaster.
It brings out people’s evil sides. It makes people crazy.
It forces people to lose control in the face of its tremendous power.

Hello there. If that is how you think and feel about firearms, of course you are going to want nothing to do with them!

Not all hoplophobes are gun haters, but all gun haters are hoplophobes

Some hoplophobes are gun haters. Gun hating hoplophobes have an interesting and unique psychodynamic pattern. I have gleaned this from my clinical experience as a psychologist and firearms instructor, see www.PersonalDefenseSolutions.net. Gun hating hoplophobes have:

A tremendous fear of their own or other people’s inability to control their murderous impulses in the face of the tremendous life and death power that guns are deemed to wield.

A sense that guns have some sort of magical independent agency, despite the fact that they are inanimate objects. Somehow, they think, because guns can kill, they can make people crazy and want to kill. Killing is bad, therefore no one except soldiers or police officers should bear firearms.


Here are two classic examples: Vice President Joseph R. “Joe” Biden Jr., has gone on record stating that, “if you want to own assault weapons, join the Army.” 

New York’s Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has stated, “I can think of no good reason for ordinary civilians to own a gun.”

A marked mistrust of their own and other people’s ability to control themselves if they get angry. They equate, on an emotional level, anger and rage with lethal force. They also equate having a lethal force tool at one’s disposal with a “death wish.”

Gun hating hoplophobes

Gun hating hoplophobes tend to be very fearful and angry people filled with unconscious rage. All of this rage, which is unconsciously repressed, at times, threatens to well up and bleed over. This creates anxiety and guilt, and these feelings are uncomfortable. Since the source of the anxiety is their own murderous impulses, the source cannot be acknowledged without dealing a major blow to their self esteem and self image. Therefore, an explanation for the anxiety is displaced onto something other than themselves. Thus, they project their own mistrust and hostility onto others and onto guns.


A mental disorder or mental illness is a psychological or behavioral pattern that causes a person significant distress or disability, and that is not expected as part of normal development or culture. Mental disorders affect behavior, emotions, sensations, thinking, and decision making, and are associated with discomfort, anxiety, or disability.


Hoplophobia, as one type of specific phobia, fulfills all of these criteria. Given that all gun haters are hoplophobic, as discussed above, ultimately, they need treatment. Unfortunately, needing or seeking mental health treatment is still associated with stigma and shame, and therefore, many people who need mental health treatment don’t obtain it due to this stigma.

Gun haters already have enough guilt and shame, at least unconsciously. They don’t need, nor can many of them handle any more. If their cup runneth over, who knows, they might just lose control and buy a gun. That could be dangerous given their psychodynamics!  

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