The Power of the Gun


I just caught up with Walter Kirn’s excellent article in the New Republic last January, “What Gun Owners Really Want.” Kirn is a gun owner, but the article takes a very common-sense approach, showing where both sides–the anti-gun people, and the pro-gun people–are sometimes silly and unreasonable. It’s well worth reading.

I was intrigued by one part where he talked about some of the appeal, at least to him, of shooting guns.

“They push back when they’re fired. That’s the elemental fact involved…. They kick at your will in the instant they also project it, reminding you that force is always two-sided. It’s a shock the first time, an insult to the senses, but once you’ve learned to expect it, absorb it, ride it, recoil becomes a source of pleasure. You’re up on your board turning turbulence to flow….

“When I shoot at the range, I don’t feel personally powerful, but like the custodian of something powerful. I feel like a successful disciplinarian of something radically alien and potent….It’s not the gun that the so-called ‘clingers’ cling to and don’t like the thought of anybody screwing with. It’s not even the power of the gun. It’s the power over the power of the gun.”

Obviously, that’s not the only appeal of shooting. But it can be one thing, to at least some people. It resonates a bit with me.

This same principal, I’m guessing, applies to the allure of driving powerful cars, of engaging in extreme sports, of bull-fighting, of white-water rafting, and many other things. It’s the raw thrill of prevailing over something risky, powerful, or dangerous.


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