Matt Barber, vice president of Liberty Counsel Action, a right-wing Christian advocacy group, warned in a January 11, 2013 article posted on the WorldNetDaily website that by pushing gun control in the wake of Sandy Hook, Obama was “playing a very dangerous game of chicken” with firearm owners: “I fear this nation, already on the precipice of widespread civil unrest and economic disaster,” he wrote, “might finally spiral into utter chaos, into a second civil war.” (ibid) I find such a statement amusing: even as gun enthusiasts balk at the suggestion that they should be in any way distrusted when it comes to their guns and insist that they and they alone are the mentally stable “good guys” who must protect the public, in the next breath they offer up a veiled threat that gun owners might take up arms and start a civil war should anyone try to introduce a bill that would create common sense gun legislation. They insist that we trust their sanity even as they say such crazy things. Apparently, Matt Barber believes his fellow gun owners are just one disagreement away from becoming violent insurgents.

The infamous gun advocate James Yeager, CEO of a company that provides “firearms and tactical training” to whatever civilian nut comes through their door, wasn’t quite so veiled in his threats. When a gun-control debate heated up in Washington, he took to YouTube inviting gun advocates into the coming “civil war,” telling his fellow “patriots” to “load your damn mags, make sure your rifle’s clean, pack a backpack with some food in it and get ready to fight.” He ended his rant with a direct threat of violence: “I’m not letting my country be ruled by a dictator. I’m not letting anybody take my guns! If it goes one inch further, I’m going to start killing people.” (Dickinson, 2013B)

So you see? “Law-abiding gun owners” are perfectly rational, level-headed individuals who pose no threat to society. Unless, of course, you happen to disagree with their politics or offend them in some way, in which case they won’t hesitate to “start killing people.” If this mentality were confined to a few unstable lunatics like Yaeger, it wouldn’t be so bad. But this is the psychology that permeates scores of gun owners: They see their weapons as a sort of “you can’t offend me or tell me what to do” tool.

People are free to believe whatever they want to believe, and I’d have no problem with them owning guns so long as they kept them locked and unloaded and secure in their homes. If a civil war does break out or the Russians do invade, you’ll have plenty of time to load your weapons. But when people with this paranoid and suspicious mindset start toting their guns around with them everywhere they go, bad things happen.

Such fear and paranoia play a role in the everyday gun incidents that happen all around us. During the media circus that was the Trayvon Martin trial, Fox News analyst Heraldo Rivera vehemently argued the position that Trayvon was basically asking to be shot, saying that if the female jurors in the case had been armed and had seen a “stranger” in a “black hoodie” walking through their neighborhood, they’d have “shot Trayvon sooner.” (Comedy Central, The Colbert Report, July 15, 2013) In other words, speaking on national television, a representative for Fox News argued that not only is it natural to be suspicious of someone based on the color of their skin or how they are dressed, but that it’s perfectly reasonable to shoot them dead in a public place merely for walking back to their home. Even by Fox’s low journalistic standards, it was a bit much.

Heraldo Rivera may be a moron of epic proportions, but his ramblings hit upon an unspoken sentiment that many people (and especially many gun owners) harbor inside. Heraldo is just the only one stupid enough to say such things out loud. When people carry these deep-felt suspicions and prejudices into their interactions with other people, it makes a gun owner all the more likely to commit either an unnecessary shooting or a blatant murder.