A Gun “Makes . . . a Stupid Man Feel Clever”

In my previous post about anti-gun biases that pop up all too frequently in scholarly studies of guns, I highlighted a passage that appeared for no good reason in a recent book I reviewed, Guns in Law:

A gun “makes a little man feel big, a stupid man feel clever, a frightened man brave, and an insecure man feel sure.”

I noted that the authors cite an article by Walter Menninger as the source of this passage. Alas, it appears nowhere in the Menninger article, though Menninger certainly agrees with its dismissive sentiment.

Rather, the passage comes from a story in the New York Journal-American newspaper from 1965, “Are You Gun Shy? . . . Read This and Be Happy.”

Front page of New York Journal-American, 18 February 1965

The title of the article is meant to suggest to “gun shy” readers that they should be happy they are, which happiness is to be reinforced by reading the article.

The author of the article is Dan Morgan (whoever that is) and the dateline reads “Washington.” According to the article (pictured in full below, but also available as a PDF document HERE), “underlying emotional difficulties” are the primary (if not the only) reasons for “the gun hunger of Americans.”

Column in New York Journal-American, 18 February 1965

So, three distinguished professors at a distinguished American college write about guns and quote a passage from a newspaper article that claims (without evidence) to summarize what “psychiatrists and criminologist say” about why people own guns.

I would not accept that from a first year undergraduate and, I bet, neither would the authors — if only the subject were something other than guns.

3 thoughts on “A Gun “Makes . . . a Stupid Man Feel Clever”

  1. If I had put that kind of popular culture conjecture in a peer reviewed publication it would have been rejected out of hand by the journal editors unless it was in a context that clearly indicated that it was a popular culture comment without scientific merit but included for some sort of contextural value.


  2. “A fear of weapons is a sign of retarded sexual and emotional maturity.”
    — Sigmund Freud, “General Introduction to Psychoanalysis”


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