Yeoman Tell In Pursuit of the Good Life

Hoplophobia: Fearing Power, They Would Take It From Others

Federal Appeals Court Judge James Ho chose to use an interesting word in his July 20, 2018 dissent. It’s not in most dictionaries. It sounds like a clinical diagnosis. And it concisely captures the essence of modern resistance to American gun rights. Reporting on the case, Hank Berrien of the Daily Wire explained that hoplophobia is “an irrational aversion to weapons.”

Retired Marine Colonel Jeff Cooper (1920-2006), well-known as an expert on the use and history of firearms, coined the term “hoplophobia” in 1962. Combining two Greek words meaning “arms” and “fear,” he sought to shift the focus of gun policy debates from behavior to motivation. Hoplophobia, then, expresses possibly why someone might oppose Second Amendment rights, even when presented with calm, rational information to the contrary.

Perhaps Colonel Cooper had recently read Freud, who wrote in 1958 that “The representation of the penis as a weapon, cutting knife, dagger etc., is familiar to us from the anxiety dreams of abstinent women in particular and also lies at the root of numerous phobias in neurotic people.” More recently, Dr. Sarah Thompson acknowledged the possibility that hoplophobia exists.  Citing the American Psychiatric Association (ASA) Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), she clarified that “a person with a true phobia of guns realizes his fear is excessive or unreasonable.” Writing for Current Events in 2011, Dr. Bruce Eimer, a psychologist and firearms instructor, stated that “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.” Essentially, what they say against gun owners is what they fear in themselves.

Hoplophobia is frequently dismissed as a pejorative, but Colonel Cooper wisely acknowledged the harm in dismissive name-calling, and the potential that it could backfire. He wrote in 1997 that, “To convince a man that he is not making sense is not to change his viewpoint but rather to make an enemy.” This is counter-productive. Ultimately, the goal of understanding hoplophobia is not to make enemies, but to convert enemies into allies. This may not be an entirely rational process.  It requires patiently seeking to understand why someone could be afraid of firearms, and speaking to those fears. But liberating friends and neighbors so afflicted is a noble goal, and could empower them to simultaneously discover two kinds of freedom: freedom from fear, and Second Amendment freedom.




Yeoman Tell is a Christian homeschooled autodidact polymath from Pennsylvania. He holds a bachelor's degree in political science, a graduate certificate in geospatial intelligence, and is pursuing a master's degree in homeland security. He has formally studied religion, law, business, and four languages. He consults for small businesses, and is certified as an NRA Law Enforcement Patrol Rifle Instructor.