Psychology Today's Exploration Of Guns Has Flawed Premise

A lot of places that should ostensibly eschew most politics have been jumping all over politics for years. It’s one thing when a magazine that supports a profession touches on political issues directly related to its field–for example, a magazine for the oil industry touching on energy policy regularly–but these days, everyone wants to pretend to be a political wonk.

One example is Psychology Today. They’ve decided to look at gun control and use their psychological expertise to tell us why we don’t have tougher gun laws already.

And they start with some really bad premises.

This is the third in a series of posts about the disaster that is America’s gun culture. If you’re interested, here is the first, and here’s the second.

Why doesn’t the U.S. have safer gun laws? Politics. But why are U.S. politics this way? History and the Second Amendment are part of the story: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Gun advocates emphasize the conclusion, that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed,” while supporters of greater restrictions point out that this “right” is explicitly limited to “A well-regulated militia,” and not to individuals. Another contributor is the widespread American self-image of independent frontiersmen, ready and willing to defend their homestead against marauders.

But why are politicians so reluctant to stanch what is an ongoing national tragedy, especially given that most Americans are not now threatened by raiding Comanches and ravenous wolves? Fear doubtless remains a key motivation: fear of the influence and financial clout of the National Rifle Association, an organization that for most of its history was concerned entirely with gun safety and education, but that in recent decades has become perhaps the most ferocious and powerful single-issue lobby in the country.

First, the bold at the top is in the original, and let’s talk about that for a second. In this, someone who is apparently not really a part of American gun culture has decided that American gun culture is a complete disaster.

That betrays his bias from the start.

The thing is, most people who are part of the firearm culture in this country don’t see it as being any such thing. Sure, there may be problems here and there, but a disaster? Hardly. Further, many of the problems are spurred on by people who don’t understand us trying to talk about why we support the right to keep and bear arms.

The author goes on to argue that the reason politicians don’t embrace gun control is something like fear. Nevermind that most pro-gun officials believe not just that gun control doesn’t work but that there are better ways to address the issue of violent crime.

For him, the possibility of a reasoned, good-faith argument against gun control is simply impossible. It has to be a combination of the vile NRA and their own fearful nature.

However, he also illustrates his poor understanding of the history of the Second Amendment as well. It wasn’t just about “raiding Comanches and ravenous wolves,” but also the ravenous wolves that make a tyrannical government. No, we don’t have such a thing in this country, but the Second Amendment is as much about preventing such a thing as it is about dealing with it should it arise.

The problem is that too many people who are outside of the firearm community in this country seem to believe they understand us. It’s not because they’ve talked with us calmly and rationally, either. No, it’s because some op-ed somewhere told them what to think about us and that’s all there is to it. That’s especially odd considering they’re the ones who are fearful about people holding onto their rights. They project that fear onto us and pretend it’s the truth.

Maybe that is something the folks at Psychology Today should delve into.

You know, just to shake things up.

Jun 20, 2021 11:30 AM ET
Jun 18, 2021 7:00 PM ET