(Article changed on December 17, 2012 at 12:41)
Never having owned, or even wanted to own a gun, I've been at a loss to understand why gun owners are so passionately protective of their right to possess a deadly weapon. I had a hard time wrapping my brain around the manic fear some display whenever the subject of gun control came up - until I looked at it through the eyes of a recovering alcoholic.
The panic expressed by individuals who fear the loss of their weapon is like that of an addict who fears being deprived of his drug of choice. An addict will kick and scream, and do whatever else it takes to keep their addiction in tact. We will sacrifice all we have if need be, including our jobs, our families, our freedom, our sanity, and even our lives. We will lie to our wives, our children, and even our mothers. Woe be unto anyone or anything attempting to come between us and the object of our dependency.
I found a recent online forum comment to be revealing:
"Face it, you like or love guns and accessories and make it your hobby and passion by choice. You travel the web and purchase books about firearms and ammunition and take frequent trips to the gun shop, gun smith and shooting range. You open your safe to clean your collection, check humidity, or to just plain show them off to your buds. Then there is the spending. You spend the unused part of your check each week, save up or sometimes dip into your savings for a new gun, accessories, ammo, or gear."
The behavior depicted could easily be transferred to describe any one of a number of addictions. Consider some of the common characteristics of addictive behavior:
-Obsession with an object, activity or substance.
-A compulsion to engage in an activity, and finding it difficult, even impossible not to do so.
-Engaging in a behavior even though it causes harm to self and/or others.
-Denial that the behavior is a problem.
-Ritualistic behavior involving the object or activity (like the trips to the gun shop and gun cleaning in the forum post).
-Enabling oneself and others by associating with only those who share and even encourage the behavior.
-And of course there's the desire for the gratification (high) the behavior provides, which becomes an uncontrollable need.
Apart from these, I believe an additional essential ingredient in the addiction mix centers on issues of power and control. We addicts often suffer from low self-esteem and have anxiety about not feeling in control of our environment. Guns help some feel more powerful; they feed a power fantasy where guns provide an almost magical solution to any problem. In a multitude of ways, popular culture identifies the guy with the gun as the guy with the power. There's no problem that a gun can't solve. "Might is right", and whoever has the biggest arsenal is king.
Then there is the gratification derived from the act of firing a gun. Gun owners often talk about the pleasure and enjoyment they experience when holding and shooting a weapon. Another forum participant describes the activity with a feeling that borders on erotic poetry:
"My Super Blackhawk is not at all unpleasant to shoot. It rolls back in my hand, sort of tries to leave my supporting hand, and climbs near vertical with muzzle uppermost. And the target reacts in the nicest way. And this gun is indeed a pleasure to shoot."
Even "gamers" report the rush of pleasure they feel when firing guns during play.
Like other drugs, possessing a gun provides the addict with an escape from reality and an easing of emotional pain. It may begin with the need for a momentary release from anxiety and fear, but it soon evolves into a dependency on the changes in consciousness and ritualistic behaviors that create a vicious cycle from which it is very difficult to escape.
The truth is, the vehemence with which some gun owners protest any change in laws affecting weapons and ammunition, speaks to the depth of their suffering. Indeed, they are suffering in bondage to a need which has taken over their lives. That's what addiction is. The good news is that, as with other addictions, there is a way out. The difficulty lies first in society as a whole recognizing that there is a larger problem to with which to deal.
We need an intervention for our country. We need to confront ourselves with the truth about the culture of fear and violence which enables those addicted to guns to control the narrative, as well as the legislatures. We need to be honest about the profit motives feeding our willingness to allow our communities to endure the kind of domestic terror our culture perpetuates. We need to face the fact that we've created a culture in which "the gun" has become an icon, a golden calf, an object of worship.
Recovering addicts know that healing begins with a shift in consciousness that enables the ability to see with the blinders removed. This is also what we need as a society. While changes in laws are needed, such actions alone will not eradicate the terror. What is needed is a new mind, a new conscious awareness which will allow us to see past the transient pleasures that lure us, both as individuals and as a society, into committing great crimes of conscience.
I pray for the day to soon come when we as a country have the courage to face our pain instead of numbing it with whatever the current drug of choice may be.