Psychology Today Misses Mark On Guns, Gun Rights, And Fears

Psychology Today Misses Mark On Guns, Gun Rights, And Fears
(AP Photo/John Locher, File)

Psychology is the study of the human mind. It’s a fascinating subject, one I spend a decent amount of time delving into. I’m interested in why people think and act the way they do.


Unfortunately, the study of psychology has some issues. A lot of studies simply can’t be replicated, which calls their findings into question, for one thing.

Luckily, one of the largest publications covering the field is on top of the problem. OK, not really. Instead, they’re going to tell us about how fear is driving our support for gun rights and offer suggestions on just how to bring gun control about.

No, seriously.

The main problem related to the discussion of gun control is that the beliefs and opinions of both sides are driven not by rational arguments but by emotions, more specifically by fear (Pierre, 2019). For one side, the main fear is that public safety is in danger due to the more than 390 million firearms in the United States (Karp, 2018); for the other side, there is the fear that we cannot defend ourselves in a cruel world if guns are taken away. Fear is a strong emotion, related to a loss of control. It can affect us by “freezing” opinions and beliefs. Therefore, it is unlikely to see dramatic changes in the opinions of both opposite sides or to see a comprehensive gun reform.

Now, I’m going to say here that he might have a valid point. Our concerns are obviously downplayed and made light of, but you could argue that concerns over crime and a tyrannical government would amount to “cannot defend ourselves in a cruel world.”

But this ignores the fact that the United States Constitution clearly protects our right to keep and bear arms, stating that the right “shall not be infringed.” That’s also a factor, and my concerns over defending myself in a cruel world stem from concerns over the true motivations of those who would deny me the ability to do so.


Luckily, the author has specifics that he’s convinced both sides can agree on.

What could be done, however? Gun legislation could start with less controversial topics that the two opposite sides could more easily agree to. There is widespread public support for a ban on assault and semiautomatic weapons and of high-capacity magazines for private use. The Las Vegas shooter, [name redacted], who killed 60 civilians and wounded 411 people in 2017 used 23 firearms, some of which were semiautomatic weapons (Jervis & Johnson, 2017).

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaand here’s how I know he doesn’t know anything about guns in the first place.

What he’s proposing here, a ban on all semiauto firearms, is essentially to negate the near totality of firearm development of the 20th century and dip even into the 19th century.

Semiautomatics aren’t new. It’s a technology that dates from 1885, which tells you how ridiculous the hysteria on this actually is.

No, we’re not likely to agree on that, much less a magazine ban or a ban on so-called assault weapons.

But what else does the author have to offer?

There is also wide support for buyers’ backgrounds being consistently checked and recorded (National Instant Criminal Background Check System, NICS).

There is wide support for restricting the use of firearms for those who have been convicted of certain crimes, those who have restraining orders due to domestic violence, and those with mental illness who demonstrate a risk of harming themselves or others (Pierre, 2017).


Already happening.

If he’s talking about universal background checks, it should be noted that while support in polls has been high, they’ve been rejected at the ballot box multiple times. Why? Because the idea sounds fine, but when people find out they can’t sell a gun to their cousin they’ve known their whole life or they can’t pass their guns down to their kids, they get a little bent out of shape.

See, people want others to have to undergo background checks. They don’t want to have to deal with it themselves, and that’s the problem with using polling to determine policy.

As for the second paragraph, all of that is already law. The idea of pushing this just shows how little the author understands gun laws.

In fact, so far, what he’s shown is just how little he understands about the subject he’s writing about. It kind of makes you wonder just what other kinds of garbage Psychology Today puts in their pages and how much of it you can trust.

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