A fine article in the Washington Post this weekend by Christine Emba explored the cause of the American gun fetish.  In America today there are about 393 million privately owned firearms—about 120 guns for every 100 Americans. That is far and away the highest rate of any country in the world, more than double the number of the next country on the list. 

“The United States has the most civilian-held and illicit firearms by far, and it actually has more guns than people… 393.3 million civilian and illicit firearms in 2017 – 120.5 for every 100 of its residents.” (Niall McCarthy, 2020) Image by Statista.com; Creative Commons license.

With so many guns available—and many of them military style guns designed to kill people efficiently—we ought not be surprised at daily mass shootings in the country.

The title of Emba’s article says it all: “Why do Americans want guns?  It comes down to one word.”  That one word is the “F” word: Fear.*

Attending the “Nations’s Gun Show” in Chantilly, featuring “rows of weapons and accessories—gun parts, AR build kits and body armor,” she found “one common emotion underlying the event: fear.”  

When she asked sellers and buyers alike what gun ownership meant to them, “most replied with the same word: ‘protection’.”  Protection from what?  Pick your paranoia.

Gun violence now ranks as the leading cause of death for children and teens in the United Sates.  The author proposes that “the paranoia that fuels gun-buying has come to seem like a mental health issue in its own right.”  Out of control fear seems to characterize our current society.

Jordan Klepper visits the world’s largest gun show in Tulsa, Oklahoma to investigate America’s unique obsession with guns and how gun companies are targeting the youth. The Daily Show

The media coverage of gun violence feeds the paranoia and poorly understood ‘stand your ground’ and ‘castle doctrine’ laws perpetuate and protect a vigilante mind-set.  Ignorance also feeds hatred.

She notes that there is a “sharp-edged individualism” behind gun ownership protection—it serves an every-man-for himself mind-set.  Individual fear trumps collective safety.

Thomas Aquinas calls fear a mortal, that is a deadly, sin. Obviously, he is not talking about fear as an emotion but about fear as a choice. People and societies do, at times, choose fear and choose to make a worldview of fear and to build a lifestyle around it. Fear is an emotion we all feel, and especially when structures of family, culture, religion, and society are in meltdown.

Some fear is to be expected in times like ours and because fear is more widespread than usual, it is important to discern authentic fear from false fear–or, as Aquinas puts it, “chaste fear” from “servile fear.” The latter is what makes slaves of people.  

To be continued.


Adapted from Matthew Fox, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society, pp. 296f

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: Supporters of the previous tenant of the White House invoke the second amendment at a post-election rally, 11/7/2020. Photo by Ken Fager on Flickr.

Queries for Contemplation

Do you sense fear as reaching new levels in our society today?  What means do we have to mitigate it?

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7 thoughts on “Fear & Guns in America”

  1. Avatar

    Fear is now at the level of craziness. Don’t be offended by the words in the video (see link below). But systemic love of guns is referred to as ‘bats’ and random acts of violence as being gone ‘apes’ or ‘bananas’. Both are crazy, and is that really the society that most people want to live in? This is what the rest of the world thinks of America these days, really. — BB.


    1. Avatar

      I am not sure you meant to include all the videos. The first one surely describes the state of our nation, sadly.

  2. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    What I hear most, from Americans with regards to guns, is their lawful right to bare arms in order to protect themselves. Fear-filled belief in this lawful right, is the illusion and delusion that it will lead to the fulfillment of what it promises; the right and power to protect oneself from harm, from the so called dangerous other. This other is deemed as the neighbor whom is different than oneself; be it in color, gender, religious or spiritual affiliation, sexual orientation, or cultural identity.

    Contrast this with the truth, the way and the life of the sacred law of Love revealed through Jeshua, we see the pathway of the evolution of consciousness, which helps us to emerge out of our fear-filled state; that we might awaken and converge with that which it promises.

    Love does no harm to its neighbor. The one you deem as other, is thyself. Love is the fulfillment of the law. I am the truth, the way, the life of the fulfillment of this sacred law of love. Perfect Love, casts out ALL fear. Being and living in the powerful reality of this truth, will set you free. God is the promise maker and keeper of this sacred law of love.

    It’s up to each one of us to choose, either to respond to this sacred law of love and the fulfillment of that which it promises, in faith, hope and trust; or to reject and deny it, accepting man made laws that are rooted in fear in its place, resulting in the fulfillment of its false promises.

    1. Avatar
      Gwen McGrenere

      As Jeshua warned before he was crucified: “If you live by the sword you will die by the sword.” HIs upgraded message would be: If you live by the gun or bomb you will die by the gun or bomb. The whole planet is now seeded with lethal ordinance/weapons sold by dark money agents in every country, including the USA. The last time I checked, the USA sells more weapons worldwide than all other nations combined. These facts should be mentioned by every news agency in the world. If we don’t shed a bright light on dark money agents, ordinary citizens in every country will be victims of the arms race.


  3. Avatar
    Barbara Schwartzbach

    I am disturbed by the gun violence. I was shocked when riding my bike I saw a man on a roof, my first thought does he have a gun ? I believe it is hard time in our cosmic story for many.

  4. Avatar

    Yes, very alarming that fear, ignorance, paranoia, racism, violence, and gun obsession — all interrelated— are on the rise in American society (especially the last 20yrs.). Historically, one could say that it is also the culmination of toxic and unbalanced patriarchal values and beliefs (especially the last 800yrs) in Western society and institutions that has led to worldwide violence, racism, misogyny, poverty, many social inequities, and pollution/destruction of our earth’s environment and her many species (including risking our own).One could also say in a broader more wholistic spiritual perspective, that we as humanity and our sacred Mother Earth are going through a perilous spiritual shift and transformation in our evolution. Spiritually we’re being informed in many ways that the consciousness and responsibilities of our personal and collective Souls are still very important in the spiritual transformation of humanity and Mother Earth with the grace and mercy of God’s Divine Love~Wisdom~Truth~Peace~Justice~Healing~Strength~Guidance~Compassion… Present within, through, among, and around us in our physical and non-physical dimensions of our sacred multidimensional-multiverse evolving Cosmos of our Creator~Source’s Loving Diverse Oneness….

  5. Avatar

    The hope for the internet as a beneficial agent in uniting people across distances and countries has been twisted into profit-maximizing algorithms that exaggerate and stoke individualism, differences, and ego self-worship. Fear is a tool used to “separate each individual from their herd”: their society, their schools, even their families. Building up an individual’s “right” to do whatever” feels good” for themselves, without caring how it affects anyone else, or even doing horrifying things BECAUSE it affects everyone else, is a profitable product for internet companies and those who reap the collateral spoils: news agencies such as Fox, gun manufacturers, politicians, criminals, and adversaries such as Putin. Fear creates a profitable closed loop of spiraling need.

    To fight back, we need to first recognize the harm being done to us by these profit-maximizing internet algorithms. We need to create a big enough movement that protests against and disengages from the sources of societal suicide. Pull the plug on the perpetrators of community self-poisoning. We need to re-affirm the value of shared community as a sacred blessing, recognizing beauty in difference rather than targeting each other with suspicion and hatred. We rise with love together, or we fall severed by fear.

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