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Atty. Ralph D. Sherman

130 West Main Street • New Britain, Connecticut 06052

tel. (860) 229-0213 • fax (860) 229-0235 • e-mail


Legal Opinion

September 2001


Neurosis of the gun haters

Two plus two equals five.

If you went to a psychologist and said that you can't accept the fact that two plus two equals four, that it must equal five, that you can't stand it equaling four, then you would probably be diagnosed as neurotic.

But you'd have plenty of company among Sarah Brady's crowd - the gun haters.

Please notice that I don't call them "gun banners" or "gun grabbers." I call them "gun haters." That's because I believe that an actual hatred of firearms is at the root of much of what the Brady Bunch says and does.

I also believe that this hatred of firearms is at odds with reality and reflects an inability or unwillingness to accept certain aspects of the real world that simply exist and cannot be changed. For example, the gun haters cannot accept that it is legal and ethical to use physical force (deadly or otherwise) against an aggressor who uses physical force.

You may also have noticed the neurosis in the members of a related group, the anti-hunters. The more you read their statements about hunting, the plainer it becomes that it isn't really hunting that they oppose. It's death. They are unwilling to accept two facts: that all wild animals die sooner or later, and that nearly all wild animals die rather cruel deaths, by starvation, disease, or predation by other wild animals. The anti-hunters imagine that without hunters in the woods, Bambi will live to be 100 and die peacefully in his sleep. The truth of the matter is quite different, as any hunter or wildlife biologist knows.

With the gun haters, the neurosis surfaces whenever they talk about children and firearms. Earlier this year, in connection with a gun haters' protest against a local department store selling firearms, I appeared as a guest on several "talk" shows, opposite some of the protesters. Each said that their main objection was that "parents should be able to bring their children to the store without seeing guns."

What's the next step? Shall we censor references to guns in our history books? Shall we pretend that World War II was won because our soldiers were good at spelling? Shall we remove the word "gun" from the dictionary?

Some people are already taking that tack. I know another attorney who supports a total ban on firearms ownership and has strictly prohibited guns, toy guns, war games, and the like from his home. The result: His son's favorite toys (at the homes of friends) are toy guns and other toy weapons. Just imagine what will happen if the son finds a real gun somewhere.

I've written and spoken many times about children, guns, and "forbidden fruit." It's sad that the gun-haters' neurosis can cause tragic consequences.

As an attorney, an NRA-certified instructor, and a shooter with two young daughters, I am very concerned about safety. A few years ago, my wife and I attended an NRA annual meeting and brought home an Eddie Eagle video as a souvenir. The message - if you find a gun, stop, don't touch, leave the area, tell an adult - was easy and fun for both our children to grasp (even at ages 4 and 2).

The Eddie Eagle program is not a substitute for proper storage and further education if you have guns and kids at home, but it's another backstop. And for a family without guns at home, like that of my attorney friend, Eddie Eagle tells kids not to mess with guns that they may encounter in another home or anywhere. So Eddie Eagle's message works for anyone.

Not according to Sarah Brady, however. In a recent debate published in Outdoor Life magazine, she outlined the "problems" with Eddie Eagle:

"There are a few problems with this approach. First, it places the responsibility on young children not to go near guns that are accessible, rather than on parents for never, ever leaving loaded guns where children can find them. Second, it glamorizes guns by making them seem desirable objects that can be used when children are older; as everyone knows, there's nothing that makes drinking, smoking and other "adult" activities more attractive than by characterizing them as things you get to do when you grow up. Finally, there are many, many parents who do not want their children to learn about guns in school, and their wishes should be respected."

In other words, we shouldn't teach children what to do if they find a gun - we should pretend that it will never happen. We shouldn't teach children that guns may be handled by adults - we should pretend that no one is capable of using guns legitimately.

And we shouldn't teach children that guns exist - we should pretend that two plus two equals five.


Copyright 2001 by Ralph D. Sherman

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