The salacious relationship between a man and his gun

In April, a series of gun control bills, including bipartisan legislation designed to expand background checks, were euthanized in the U.S. Senate after each failed to receive the 60-vote supermajority needed to pass. The votes by the world’s greatest deliberative body were a body blow to the campaign to pass legislation to curb gun violence.

Maybe it’s time to admit what the gun debate is really all about, even though it’s a topic not discussed in polite society.

The gun control bills would have banned the sale of certain military-style assault weapons, outlawed high-capacity magazines and expanded criminal background checks on gun buyers. This latter provision is supported by 91 percent of Americans, according to a Gallup poll.

Guns are pervasive in America. The FBI estimates that about 60 million Americans own over 300 million guns and the number is climbing. More than ever, guns are in. There is practically a gun for every man, woman, and child in the country.

Nearly all of the mass shootings in recent years- Aurora, Tucson, Columbine and most recently Newtown, Conn., where a one-man army tragically abbreviated the lives of 20 children, were committed by deranged white males. These bloodbaths, which could happen again any day, were not sufficient to make firearm possession more difficult or even enforce existing laws more faithfully. In the end, they have changed nothing.

The subjects of guns and violence always elicit emotional responses from gun haters and gun lovers and generate heated debates among well-meaning people for whom democracy is a burning faith rather than a belief based on reason. The main arguments are stale by now.

Let’s get beyond what philosophers call the “habit of abbreviated thinking.” What is the fight over guns really about? Maybe it is time to consider the association between firearms and phallic (Freudian) symbolism.

Back in the late 1960s, Mad magazine did a hilarious article based on the idea of combining a gun magazine with a hot romance magazine. The result was called “Passionate Gun Love.” One of the articles was titled “Field-Stripping the M-1 Rifle.” The content and writing style is left to your imagination.

The point, of course, was to emphasize the enormous amount of aggressive sexual sublimation there is in the emotional involvement with firearms of the average American gun enthusiast, which only seems to have become more intense over the years and rules the psyche in an effort to overcome a sense of lost virility or “shooting blanks.” Yes, sublimation between guns and sex, more phallic symbolism.

Some gun owners do seem to get a little too much fun out of fondling and firing guns. Obviously inanimate objects such as the business end of a long-barreled assault weapon have agency that may compensate for just average manhood. And when you have something that large, you are right to be concerned that the government may want to nationalize it.

Does this suggest that the only feasible way to pass serious gun control legislation is to first pass legislation fully legalizing every variety of sexual activity involving consenting adults and rebrand guns as sex toys as well as intellectual companions? Call this Freudian psychobabble if you want. But American men – and the legislators who represent them – are proving that Freud was right.

originally published: June 29. 2013

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