Guns: A “Right” or an “Addiction”?

Who do I think I’m kidding.  You already know, without anything to back it up, which side of the title question I come out on.

About a month ago, I came across an editorial in an online medical journal that has been on my mind ever since.

Is American Gun Ownership a Form of Addiction?

In it, George D. Lundberg, MD, persuasively argued that maybe the vehemence of gun owners protecting their so-called “right to bear arms” isn’t so much an intellectual argument as one fueled by addiction.  And I think that Dr. Lundberg may be on to something.
He first listed the nine symptoms of substance addiction:
  • Availability of the agent for experimentation;
  • Initial use producing pleasure followed by subsequent pleasant episodes of use and positive secondary reinforcement;
  • Psychological dependence or habituation;
  • Tolerance, with need to use more to get the same effect;
  • Chemical physical dependence;
  • Withdrawal symptoms when the agent is taken away;
  • Drug-seeking behavior;
  • Continued use even when obvious harm has been experienced; and
  • Rationalization and denial.

Then, Dr. Lundberg states that, like addictions to gambling and sex, with an addiction to guns, there is no physical/chemical addiction.  But the other symptoms?  Check, check, check.  Check-mate.

Here, in fact, is Dr. Lundberg’s gun addiction checklist:
  • Availability? Check;
  • Positive reinforcement? Check;
  • Habituation? Check;
  • Tolerance? Big check. Once someone becomes a gun owner, adding guns is usual; one is not enough. The average American gun-owning household includes 8.1 firearms, up from 4.1 in 1994. The NRA goes bonkers about any suggestion of limits;
  • Chemical dependence? No;
  • Withdrawal? I have not personally seen a convulsion in a gun-owning doctor when confronted with the possibility of losing his or her guns, but pretty damn close. I mean….;
  • Weapon-seeking behavior? Check;
  • Continued use despite harmful results? Check; and
  • Rationalization and denial? Check.

I think that Dr. Lundberg is on to something.

I think the issue of gun addiction deserves some attention today, as President Obama unveils the measures he can take towards sane gun control laws because Congress won’t.

Obama and gun control

President Obama hugged Mark Barden, whose son was killed in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, before announcing his executive action on gun control in the East Room of the White House.  Photo Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times

Thanks, Mr. President.  Because 90% of Americans believe in stronger gun laws.  And because 100% of us remember this:

Sandy Hook Elementary

Sandy Hook Elementary School, 2012.  Wikimedia Image

The Medscape article, with the video of Dr. Lundberg delivering his editorial, is free, but by subscription.

58 Comments

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58 responses to “Guns: A “Right” or an “Addiction”?

  1. There you go, shooting your mouth off again, Elyse! 😜

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The idea seems to be: the gubmint wants to take my guns… how can I shoot the federal agents coming to take my guns if I don’t have any guns? Morons.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Consider the chemical release of endorphin’s when shooting, likely similar to other actions. Sex? Pain? Who really knows.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sure it is orgasmic for some —
      I read Obama’s op ed. Didn’t see the town hall meeting (but will watch it this weekend). It’s good that he reminded us that the fight will be a long one, but I hope an ultimately successful one.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Happy New Year!

    I’m not sure about “Continued use even when obvious harm has been experienced” — I think most gun owners don’t think their gun ownership has caused any harm (which I think is the criterion — I think they mean something like “your drinking has made you late for work”, not “your coworker’s drinking has made him late for work” or even “someone you don’t know was killed in a drunk-driving accident caused by someone else you don’t know”).

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I like your angle. Neither the legal system nor public admonishment have succeeded in controlling guns. I heard gun sales have actually increased. Maybe addressing this as a disorder would be a better approach. A prerequisite for licensing should be professional therapy and unlawful possession of firearms should require time in rehab.

    Amazon recently forwarded me a question from a prospective purchaser of a product I bought – a fitness waist band to hold keys, phone, etc. to enable hands-free walking/running. The question was whether or not the band could conceal a gun. These people freak me out!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m in the “all of the above” camp. Whatever it takes! My husband believes that only through litigation can we start controlling guns. Law suits keep everybody else honest(er) — and liability might just prevent someone from selling 3,000 rounds of ammo, or from refusing to make “smart” guns (now there’s a misnomer). If it helps to call it a disorder — because the check list is pretty accurate — that’s fine. Whatever it takes.

      Anyone who needs a gun while they’re out walking or jogging should find another neighborhood — like the AMAZON JUNGLE!

      Like

  6. I think chemical dependency shouldn’t be crossed out so quickly. I wouldn’t be surprised if gun manufacturers mix in some nicotine and/or heroin into gunpowder and gun lube.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Perhaps it would be a good idea to own a gun, to protect yourself from all the gun-toting gun addicts.

    Like

  8. Yes owning twenty guns when you’ve only got two hands does sound a lot like hoarding.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Interesting premise, but I don’t buy it. There is an addiction, all right, but it is an addiction to “fear” and being able to manage that fear with an ultimate solution: guns. That’s why the Republican candidates are ginning up the fear (fear of Mexicans, fear of Blacks, fear of Muslims, fear of home invaders, fear of the government seizing our guns. . . .).

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s a complicated issue. But there may be as many ways to look at it as there are folks on each side. And this theory may help sell looking at guns as a public health issue.

      But maybe the real addiction is to power and the absence of consequences.

      Like

  10. I’ve said that responsible owners should be the ones most in favor of stricter gun laws. But the NRA loves to foster a “it’s us vs them” mentality about it

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I’m pretty sure that NRA saying that the only way to “pry away” their guns is from their “cold, dead hands” is indicative of dependency and withdrawal.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Found this to be very interesting, especially when considering the one category that garnered a “No”. Withdrawal may qualify for a “no”, but in reality, when I consider those people in my life that I know are gun owners, they go absolutely bonkers at the idea of having to give up their weapons. It saddens me that I’m related to at least six people who not only demand their right to own guns, but have deliberately exercised their right by purchasing even more of them in the past year. It makes my head hurt.

    And these are people I like (and love). It makes me feel powerless to reach them, and I get incredibly frustrated, as if I’ve failed in some way to convey to them the reasons why owning guns only perpetuates the violence. It makes me want to stick my head in the sand and hide from all the ugliness, but then I remember that we don’t get to hide from it, because it is everywhere. Especially in Texas. (sigh)

    Liked by 1 person

  13. That’s a very interesting thought. It does seem that those who want more gun control are more willing to compromise and work together than those who don’t. Those who don’t want any are very rigid and don’t seem open to hearing the other side out.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Dana

    Nobody does it better…
    makes me feel bad for the rest.
    Nobody does it quite the way you do.
    Baby, you’re the best!

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Holly

    Or the power of having the ability to use them being addictive…that fits more of the owners I have known in my “real life” (aka, offline) unfortunately. Family included :/

    Liked by 1 person

    • I once had neighbors who firmly believed that they were entitled to any weapon the government had. They included nukes and thought that the guv’ment’s black helicopters would land on the golf course behind their house any day now … People are so weird.

      Like

  16. Interesting thought, but not sure I buy it. Couldn’t one use that checklist to make a case to anything? After all, someone has to be the devil’s advocate. … Nonetheless, his thought is worth pondering.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Very interesting. Makes a lot of sense to me, especially when I consider those I know who own guns.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. A good friend of mine has guns. He has a permit to carry a concealed weapon. I have no idea why. After the last shooting he has started routinely carrying a gun. I am terrified of him because while he thinks it will give him a chance, odds are he will shoot himself or someone else despite the fact that he’s a good shot. He hasn’t had sniper training and I’m not convinced in a high pressure situation that required fast reflexes (he’s in his mid-70s) and a clear mind there wouldn’t be collateral damage. This is only one aspect of what’s wrong with everyone running out to buy guns solely for protection. This all makes my head hurt.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Sorry I’m so late in replying, Kate!
      You’re so right about the scariness of folks who are so focused on their guns that, well, life, has less value. WTF????

      It makes my head and my heart hurt.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Deb

    This is an interesting concept and plausible as well. My only issue might be in the ‘addiction as excuse’ argument that may pop up somewhere–maybe as some sort of odd side argument to the ever-present 2nd amendment ideal. I am not yet ready to completely abandon my willingness to blame patriarchal heterosexual males who firmly believe everything in society revolves around them and their rights to live as if it is the 1840’s wild west.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You know, Deb, you do have a point. But I would rather use what we can to reduce the bigger problem of easy access to guns and then deal with the “entitlement” issue later!

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    Food for thought …. this senseless killings have to stop!!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. The scary part is that gun buying went through the roof after the San Bernadino shooting. We seem to be stuck in this vicious cycle of fear and ammo hoarding.

    Liked by 1 person

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