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Hoplophobia is a neologism, originally coined to describe an "irrational aversion to firearms, as opposed to justified apprehension about those who may wield them." It is sometimes used more generally to describe the "fear of guns" or the "fear of armed citizens."
Firearms authority and writer Jeff Cooper claims to have coined the word in 1962 to describe what he called a "mental aberration consisting of an unreasoning terror of gadgetry, specifically, firearms." 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 an 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. Cooper's 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. It is listed in The Encyclopedia of Phobias, Fears, and Anxieties, Third Edition as well as the Oxford Dictionary of Psychology.
The meaning and usage ascribed by Cooper falls outside of the definition of a phobia used by the DSM. For example, one diagnostic criteria 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 (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)"
- Cooper, Jeff. Vol. 5 No. 7 Jeff Cooper's Commentaries. June 1997, pg. 39.
- ὅπλον, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
- φόβος, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
- 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."
- Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-IV TR (Text Revision). Arlington, VA, USA: American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc. 2000-06. 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.""