Photo: Lucio Saverio Eastman

I’ve written a fair amount about gun control over the years, and it’s always led to arguments. One of the “gotcha” lines that always seemed to get thrown at me was “you just hate guns!” Sadly, this line usually ended up working on me. Call it years of watching liberals immediately surrender ground in the face of shouted, often mindless opposition in order to de-escalate a situation and find common ground to avoid taking its toll on my conversational habits. Or call it the implied toxic masculine insult that not being all-aboard with the gun world is hitting me in the gut and making me try to prove my manhood with tales of childhood hunting excursions. Whatever it was, it worked. Accuse me of hating guns, and I’d buckle like a belt. Most people I know who support gun control do as well.

But you know what? I do. I do hate guns. Is it okay to hate guns? Why wouldn’t it be okay to hate guns?

There is some firearm-specific stuff to deal with here, but let’s go general first. Guns are inanimate objects. They do not have feelings or personalities. Guns do not care if I like them, loathe them or masturbate screaming their name. Hating guns is functionally identical to hating broccoli, or Firefly, or yard work. That bearing arms is a constitutionally protected thing does not mean I have to like that actual thing. The 21st amendment says I can drink, but if I say I hate gin (and I do), no one takes it as some sort of political statement.

I wrote a bit a while back about how consumer culture can become harmful if you make it a core part of your identity. This can happen with comics, sports, video games and definitely guns. If you think guns haven’t created a consumer culture, I advise you to hit the magazine rack at Barnes and Noble some time. The sheer number of gun-centric publications is absolutely staggering.

When you invest in that level of fandom, when what you consume becomes who you are, then criticism or an expression of distaste around the thing you are consuming becomes a personal attack. The sentence “I hate guns” sounds more and more like “I hate you.” I’ve run across it dozens, maybe hundreds of times in my years as a media critic. You meet these angry people in the comments section who have traded consumption for part of their souls. It’s not healthy.

So, yes, in a general sense, it is fine to hate guns, and in a sane country that expression would be met with, “well, I like guns,” and we’d all just move on with our day. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work in America any more, and it has mostly to do with the fact that gun ownership has passed from a consumer culture into straight up fetishism.

The number of people who own guns in this country is the lowest it’s been in 40 years. However, gun purchasing is at an all-time high. The conclusion is that less people own guns, but those that do own guns own more of them. It’s the stockpiling effect, something that usually happens in the wake of the Shooting of the Week as fetishists scramble to buy more in case the major disarmament the gun manufacturers endlessly warn about as a marketing ploy actually comes to fruition. Remember when folks were filling their fridges with Blue Bell ice cream in the wake of the listeria scare even though it might actually kill them to eat it? Same exact thing.

I can understand owning guns. My dad has a 30.06 for deer, a shotgun for ducks, and some handgun or other because rural Texas is full of coyotes and meth heads with poor impulse control. As he gets older, I worry about that handgun sometimes (suicide runs in my family), but he keeps his heat locked and unloaded in a safe and therefore safe from his grandkids. I think even the staunchest gun control advocates can agree my father and others like him are operating in a responsible manner.

My dad ain’t the problem. The fetishists are. People converting gun ownership into a simulated ethnic identity is beyond gross, and it leads to terrible results. Maybe you heard about another one of those hoaxes where trolls posing as antifa groups tricked a bunch of conservatives into demonstrating against the removal of a confederate monument? It happened recently at Gettysburg, and of course someone brought their openly carried gun because something-something freedom. Just as typically, said yo-yo rested the pole of his American flag on his holster and shot himself in the freaking leg.

Here’s one from Sulphur Springs where a man in church shot himself in the foot. Here’s a woman from Mecosta County, MI that shot herself in the hip at Walmart. This dude from Cleveland managed to shoot himself and another person. I could go on. These people all had CCW’s and that so-called “responsibility” that I’m continuously told is taught to those with such a vaunted license.

I hate their stupid guns. I hate them because guns are marketed specifically to those who feel disempowered, and as a cure for that, owning one becomes a shiny symbol of strength and freedom. The supposed common sense is to hate the careless owner, but in this day and age I have a lot of sympathy for people seeking ports in the storm. I don’t hate gun owners for falling into a trap of vice. And yes, I think compulsive gun ownership is a vice. Check out this Reddit thread to see why.

But I do blame the NRA and the manufacturers and their lobbyists for selling something so dangerous as a combination of power fantasy and fashion accessory. I used to like guns before they became this line in the sand. I used to see guns and think about hunting with my dad and my Uncle Bob. Now I just think about death and weakness. I hate them for the same reason I hate the smell of cheap beer. It reminds me of broken people in crappy parts of town grasping at straws and destroying themselves.

That is a perfectly valid opinion to have. Hating a hazardous product being marketed to people without any regard to how it’s ultimately used isn’t just legit. It’s normal.