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Hoplophobia is a neologism, originally coined as a pejorative, to describe an "irrational aversion to weapons." It is sometimes used more generally to describe the "fear of firearms" or colloquially as the "fear of armed citizens."
Firearms authority and writer Jeff Cooper, who was not a medical or mental health professional, claims to have coined the word in 1962 to denigrate and anger proponents of gun control by claiming that their thoughts were "aberrant" and unreasoning:
- "I coined the term "hoplophobia" in 1962 in response to a perceived need for a word to describe a mental aberration consisting of an unreasoning terror of gadgetry, specifically, weapons. The most common manifestation of hoplophobia is the idea that instruments possess a will of their own, apart from that of their user. This is not a reasoned position, but when you point this out to a hoplophobe he is not impressed because his is an unreasonable position. To convince a man that he is not making sense is not to change his viewpoint but rather to make an enemy. Thus hoplophobia is a useful word, but as with all words, it should be used correctly."
The term was constructed from the Greek ὅπλον - hoplon, meaning, amongst other things, "arms," and φόβος - phobos, meaning "fear." Although not a mental health professional, Cooper employed the term as just another alternative to other slang terms, stating: "We read of 'gun grabbers' and 'anti-gun nuts' but these slang terms do not [explain this behavior]." Cooper attributed this behavior to an irrational fear of firearms and other forms of weaponry, with no evidence for this attribution. Cooper's unsubstantiated opinion was that "the most common manifestation of hoplophobia is the idea that instruments possess a will of their own, apart from that of their user." Writing in an opinion piece, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist Dimitri Vassilaros asserted that the term was intended by Cooper as tongue-in-cheek to mock those who think guns have free will.
Hoplophobia is not a phobia listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association.
The meaning and usage ascribed by Cooper falls outside of the definition of a phobia used by the DSM. For example, one diagnostic criterion of phobias is that the person be aware and acknowledge that their fear is irrational, and usually causes some kind of functional impairment. True medical phobias of firearms and other weapons can exist, but are unusual.
- Cooper, Jeff. Vol. 5 No. 7 Jeff Cooper's Commentaries. June 1997, pg. 39.
- Vassilaros, Dimitri (January 8, 2006). "Bloomberg's hoplophobia". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Retrieved 2012-08-24.
Hoplophobia is a tongue-in-cheek neurosis "discovered" in 1962 by firearms instructor Jeff Cooper to mock those who think guns have free will. Or any will for that matter.
- Cooper, Jeff (1990). To Ride, Shoot Straight, and Speak the Truth. Boulder, Colorado: Paladin Press. pp. 16–19.
- Segen, Joseph (2006). Concise Dictionary of Modern Medicine. New York: McGraw-Hill. p. 307. ISBN 0-8385-1535-5.
hoplophobia PSYCHOLOGY Fear of firearms. See Phobia
- Ninan; Dunlop (2006). Contemporary Diagnosis and Management of Anxiety Disorders. Pennsylvania: Handbooks in Health Care. p. 107. ISBN 1-931981-62-0.
Table 7-1 Names of Some Phobias...Unusual...Hoplophobia-fear of firearms
- Kopel, David (2005). "The licensing of concealed handguns for lawful protection: support from five state Supreme Courts". Albany Law Review 68 (2): 305+.
The precise term for such fears is "hoplophobia" (fear of armed citizens)
- ὅπλον, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
- φόβος, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
- Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-IV TR (Text Revision). Arlington, VA, USA: American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc. June 2000. p. 449. doi:10.1176/appi.books.9780890423349. ISBN 978-0-89042-024-9.
Criterion C: "The person recognizes that the fear is excessive or unreasonable. Note: In children, this feature may be absent."