4 Reasons I Went From Being A Gun Fanatic To Believing Gun Culture Is Toxic

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Why Gun Culture Is Toxic (As Written By A Man Who Used To Be A Gun Fanatic)

Once upon a time I was an unrepentant gun nut.

I wasn't the kind of guy who was stockpiling freeze-dried food in an underground bunker, awaiting the apocalypse, nor did I think a total breakdown in society was going to pit me and a team of fellow "patriots" against roaming bands of marauders, but I owned more guns and ammunition than I could ever need for any good reason.

I was comfortable with firearms, able to maintain and shoot Kalashnikovs, Glocks, AR15s, and most of the common weapons that other urban commandos seemed to favor. I went to the range for fun and to increase my skills, confident that I was one of the "smart" ones…a person who would not be victimized.

If I'm being honest with myself, I was way more paranoid than my comfortable lifestyle should've merited.

Then one day, I took a look around and considered that maybe I'd taken things a bit too far, and after some introspection, I realized that I'd lost much of my interest in living my life focused on guns.


This didn't happen overnight but with a lot of thought and soul-searching, I changed course. I still own a few firearms, and I didn't magically transform into some vigilant anti-gun hippie crusader, but I began to look at my feelings toward gun culture in a completely different light.

A lot of what I noticed bothered me and shows why gun culture is toxic:

1. The false sense of "safety".

I used to take a concealed handgun with me almost every time I left the house, and quite a few of my "gun friends" did too. It was inconvenient and uncomfortable, but I felt "safe".

Unfortunately, after awhile my confidence began to transform into feelings of weakness, and I wondered why I was that scared — did I really need a gun to leave the house? Was I that vulnerable going to the grocery store?

I didn't enjoy feeling that way, so I quit carrying concealed handguns, and soon I realized that  I still felt safe without them. I also wondered how I'd gotten so anxious about potential — but unlikely — threats over the span of a few short years. 

The answer, I think, is I hung around too many "gun people", steeped in gun cultures where paranoia is often a major part of the mindset. Speaking of that...

2. Gun owners are paranoid.

A lot of the hardcore gun culture people I encountered really believed that the right to bear arms was the only thing preventing a nightmare future where a totalitarian government would control every aspect of their lives.

To them, things like mass shootings were regrettable incidents, but no reason to take away their guns or to make it harder for them to get more. 

Yes, the world is a dangerous place, but most people I knew in gun circles lived in comfortable homes in relatively safe neighborhoods.

The chances of them needing an "end of the world" sized arsenal to protect themselves and their loved ones were minuscule at best, but when I'd talk to them, most of my gun buddies would fall back into paranoid fantasies, rationalizing the need to surround themselves with firearms. It started to seem paranoid and crazy to me.

None of it made sense when I weighed the likelihood of needing 30 rifles to protect myself against the larger problems associated with our toxic gun culture. 

RELATED: We Live In A Country Desensitized To Gun Violence — And It's SCARY

3. Toxic masculinity is rampant within gun culture.

I've always regarded myself as a feminist, even back then, but there’s a definite underlying current of toxic masculinity to some aspects of gun culture, and it became increasingly difficult for me to ignore. There are a lot of guys who seem to see guns as a source of power, and the idea of being without that power alarms them.

It's not a simple issue, but I began to notice that the hardcore gun guys seemed to have unhealthy attitudes about people who didn't share their zeal for firepower.

In any place gun owners gather, it was easy to find discussions about the "other" — the people who think it's irresponsible and dangerous for them to want unrestricted access to high-powered military-style weapons.

Those people are often disparaged as weak, or as "p*ssies", and after awhile, the macho power trips started to sound both hateful and crazy to me. I didn't need a gun to feel like a man, and had to distance myself from people who did.

4. The false sense of "freedom".

While the right to have guns is a Constitutional right and is not likely to go away anytime soon, it's interesting that so many gun enthusiasts feel like the Second Amendment is the only thing that really makes them "free".

Most of those same people accept limits on many other aspects of their freedom, often without question, but would balk at the suggestion that almost anyone couldn't walk into a sporting goods store and immediately buy an AR15 rifle without more scrutiny than they currently endure.

RELATED: I'm Terrified Of Guns, But I Felt Like A BADA** Shooting An AR-15

The idea that a few citizens with guns could stave off the government is a ridiculous fantasy anyway, and relies on the delusion that our government wants to enslave us, and that a few rifles would be enough to keep much more powerful weapons at bay. 

I began to feel that to many Americans, their right to bear arms is about more than increased "safety" from attack or tyranny. To many, guns are deeply entrenched symbols of power. We tend to celebrate our violent past, from the gunplay of the Old West and Civil War to stories of early 20th century gangsters.

We glorify violence in video games and movies, where guns are usually portrayed as nearly magical instruments able to vanquish evil, rather than instruments that cause real suffering and death in our country. 

I'll never champion censorship, but it seems ridiculous to me that Americans seem more comfortable with depictions of gun violence in media than they are with nudity.

In any case, guns are often represented as sources of power, and are afforded an almost mythic stance — to have a gun is to be powerful, to not have one is to be powerless.

But that's completely silly. So I walked away from that stuff. With mass shootings, like the recent attack in Las Vegas, becoming more frequent, it no longer seems responsible to support the gun culture that makes those tragedies more likely to occur.

Now a few years later, I can honestly say that as a man, I feel a lot more secure in myself then I did when I carried guns everywhere, and breaking away from the toxic mindset that was central to a lot of the gun culture I was exposed to was one of the more empowering things I ever did for myself.

I learned to use non-violent conflict resolution and avoid risky activities to decrease potential threats to myself, and go about my business confident that I'll probably never need a gun in my day to day life. It's been liberating.

Hopefully, reason will eventually prevail, and we’ll see restrictions created that honor peoples’ right to own guns without allowing the free-for-all that makes mass shootings such a common occurrence.

Chris Lane is a writer and blogger at YourTango.