The Daily Caller discounted the experiences of some victims of gun violence who have promoted stronger gun laws by claiming they suffer from “hoplophobia,” a fake psychological disorder defined by the gun rights movement as “the morbid fear of guns.”
This baseless attack found in the featured article of Daily Caller's "Guns and Gear" section is the latest salvo from a conservative media that have launched vicious attacks on survivors of gun violence who support reforms to current gun laws.
The Daily Caller article purported to examine “hoplophobia” as an actual psychological condition, asking, “Is America required to accept psychological acting out as a legitimate form of legislative discourse?” However this “disorder” is not recognized by the American Psychiatric Association and instead is a term coined by the late National Rifle Association board member and famed shooting instructor Jeff Cooper.
In the May 1 article, the authors singled out Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) and prominent gun violence prevention campaigner Sarah Brady as allegedly suffering from psychological problems due to their direct experience with gun violence. The article further claimed that the promotion of gun violence prevention is "perilous" to the public:
At least three of the most virulent anti-gun-rights crusaders in the nation suffered extreme gun trauma before entering the fray: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (discovered Harvey Milk's body), Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (husband shot dead on commuter train) and Sarah Brady (husband disabled in assassination attempt on President Reagan). Are there others? Have they received counseling for the gun trauma they experienced? And to what extent, if any, does hoplophobic displacement influence and skew what otherwise seems like politics as usual? The biggest question here would be: Is America required to accept psychological acting out as a legitimate form of legislative discourse?
The debate over the precise nature of the condition is likely to continue for a long period of time. This is normal in the psychiatric and mental-health field. The more pressing concern, it seems to us, is the scope of the condition, the numbers of people who may be afflicted, and the extent to which they sublimate their fear by pressing politicians to act in denying the rights of their fellow citizens. That, it seems to us, is intolerable -- the idea that a festering and untreated psychological condition may have more influence over the acts of Congress than does intelligent consideration of life-or-death issues.
In seeking to quell their own turmoil, those so afflicted project their own fears and rage onto others. This is a fairly normal method for handling overwhelming fear and anger, but in doing so, politically active hoplophobes infringe on the rights of healthy law-abiding citizens and the stability of our society. This makes hoplophobia not only unique among all phobias, it makes it perilous. [emphasis in original]
The Daily Caller article also suggested that “mass hysteria” or “mass hypnosis” may be responsible for public support for some gun violence prevention measures:
Often, when an observer is tempted to say, “That's irrational,” about modern gun politics, we're finding that it indeed is irrational. Why, for example, would a rational person offer $50 grocery gift cards and expect criminals to turn in their guns in exchange? It's simply irrational. Why do that as a response to a madman's psychotic acts 2,000 miles away? How can rational actors expect to solve real problems with irrational solutions like that?
The answer is rational people cannot, and those acts cannot provide solutions, because like so many similar examples, they are an irrational manifestation of a complex specific phobic disorder. But such actions do feel good, and that's the nub.This is pure psychological avoidance. What it accomplishes is to assuage the angst of the phobic sufferer, at the expense of providing workable solutions. The large-scale support such a program sometimes finds, including within the media, implies a mass-hysteria or mass-hypnosis effect deserving of its own study, especially in light of the considerable harm such a program causes.
Beyond advancing the terminology of Cooper as an actual medical condition, The Daily Caller article heavily relied on the writings of Sarah Thompson, described in the article as the “the author of two seminal papers that literally set the stage for examining the links between mental health and gun politics.” The Daily Caller article cited Thompson's work “Raging Against Self Defense” specifically.
However any psychological insights taken from this paper are dubious as its thesis rests upon racist, anti-Semitic and misogynist stereotypes. From “Raging Against Self Defense”:
In my experience, the common thread in anti-gun people is rage. Either anti-gun people harbor more rage than others, or they're less able to cope with it appropriately. Because they can't handle their own feelings of rage, they are forced to use defense mechanisms in an unhealthy manner. Because they wrongly perceive others as seeking to harm them, they advocate the disarmament of ordinary people who have no desire to harm anyone. So why do anti-gun people have so much rage and why are they unable to deal with it in appropriate ways? Consider for a moment that the largest and most hysterical anti-gun groups include disproportionately large numbers of women, African-Americans and Jews. And virtually all of the organizations that claim to speak for these “oppressed people” are stridently anti-gun. Not coincidentally, among Jews, Blacks and women there are many “professional victims” who have little sense of identity outside of their victimhood. [emphasis added]
The Daily Caller authors' other primary source, Cooper, also had a history of publishing racist commentary and defending the practice of slavery in his gun rights newsletter, Jeff Cooper's Commentaries.
Befitting the attitudes of the sources cited for the article, The Daily Caller chose to run the story with an image of a billboard that has been criticized as insensitive to Native Americans:
[The Daily Caller, accessed 5/1/13]