Violence and Utopia – Realism and Idealism in the age of Gun Control

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Violence and Utopia – Realism and Idealism in the age of Gun Control IMG iStock-532226067

Evil is hard to accept.  I attended a self-defense training class last week where an expert described how callous and downright evil violent criminals can be. I don’t think I’m a coward, but recognizing evil takes an emotional toll.  I’m not alone in feeling that way. Gun “prohibition” laws give us psychological relief from facing evil.  Projecting evil intent on an inanimate object protects us from having to recognize violence as part of the human condition. By contrast, recognizing evil strips away our innocence and imposes obligations on us.  This psychological dynamic explains a lot about the political dynamics behind gun control.  Gun control continues to appeal to a certain type of person despite its record of failure.

We don’t know what a violent person looks like.  Violence would be so much easier to tolerate if every violent criminal came with a cartoon thought-bubble floating above them that said, “Watch out for this crazy person.”  In fact, criminals defy simple explanation.  Some criminals are poor and some are rich.  They can be crazy or sane.  Some criminals are addicts; others are as sober as the proverbial judge.  Some violent criminals grew up deprived and abused, while others grew up pampered and indulged.  

Violence will not go away despite our efforts to label or rationalize criminals and violent behavior. According to data from the US Bureau of Justice Statistics, between one-out-of-two and one-out-of-three of us will be victims of violent crime in our lifetime. Though not an everyday occurrence, the sad fact is that criminal violence is with us.  It is uncomfortable to feel at risk. It can even be depressing.

This is where each of us faces a choice.  On one hand, we can view the world as imperfect and slightly dangerous.  A realist takes responsibility for his or her own safety.   On the other hand, we can cling to a utopian view of the world.  An idealist says that it is society’s duty to protect people against violence.

It is easier for the idealist to talk about utopian prohibitions against violence than to face the real day-to-day effort of personal protection. Idealists say it is up to the police to keep us safe.  Realists say we are our own first line of defense, and the police are only there to take reports and make arrests.

For the idealist, the benefits of being disarmed are real.  Placing the burden of protection on society allows the idealist to keep human evil at arm’s length.  When someone is attacked, the idealist responds by proposing more gun control laws.  Weapons prohibition is psychic Valium to control the toxic emotional impact of real violence.

The idealist also condemns the realist. The level of psychological projection by idealists is several levels deep.  On the surface, the idealist turns the physical objects of the gun or the knife into a fetish.  It is the inanimate objects that are dangerous rather than seeing danger in flesh-and-blood human beings.  At a deeper level, the placebo of firearms prohibition lets the idealist replace concern with complacency.

At a still deeper level, idealists not only blame the gun, but the gun owner.  The honest person who wants to use a firearm for personal protection disrupts the fantasy that guns are the problem.  Idealists cannot allow themselves to admit that honest citizens often prevent a crime or protect the innocent from violence.  Therefore, the idealist, especially those in the media, feel compelled to shield the public from this disturbing evidence.  That may seem to be a bold claim, but you can see the evidence for yourself.

Look at the typical news cycle after another innocent person is horribly attacked by a violent criminal.  Anti-gun activists and politicians run to the news media to say there is no personal responsibility to protect ourselves.  I’m paraphrasing here:

‘You don’t need to change how you live because we only need a little more gun-control and then everything will be fine.’

Gun prohibition has no effect on criminals. For example, Maryland imposed strict gun control a few years ago, banning the sale of the most popular semi-automatic rifles.  Legislation also limited the number of cartridges allowed in a firearm. Criminals don’t follow gun laws so the results were entirely predictable.  The crime rate is now at record levels in Baltimore, (and here) Maryland’s most populous city.  That story is repeated again and again in gun-control cities like Chicago and Los Angeles.  

Unfortunately, the idealist doesn’t stop with gun control.  He extends his antipathy beyond guns and knives to include any armed civilian.  Licensed concealed carry holders are the most law abiding segment of society.  They are charged with fewer firearms violations than other segments of society, including the police.  Licensed gun owners are the boy scouts of society.  Idealists say that since they don’t want to carry a firearm, we all should be disarmed.

The idealists say their laws stop crime, but gun laws miss their target the vast majority of the time.  These anti-gun laws really target the law-abiding gun owner.

We have already passed some 23 thousand firearms regulations.  They failed to stop or materially reduce violent crime.  This is the rule rather than the exception since we’ve seen prohibition fail time after time in country after country.

“But if criminals obeyed the laws then these gun laws would work.  We just need to pass another law!”

The antipathy towards gun owners is not based upon stopping violence, but upon reducing the discomfort felt by idealists.  For the idealist, letting society take the burden removes both the duty and the emotional cost of facing an imperfect world.  For the idealist, protecting the fantasy narrative is more important than respecting the facts.

In the meantime, the realist faces the daily grind of training and preparation for self-defense.

Which will you choose?

The comments of William April, Tom Givens, and Anna Valdiserri inspired this article.

Rob Morse: Rob writes about gun rights at Ammoland, at Clash Daily and on his SlowFacts blog. He hosts the Self Defense Gun Stories Podcast and co-hosts the Polite Society Podcast. Rob is an NRA pistol instructor and combat handgun competitor.

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OK Men and Women: Here’s how it went for me meeting a regular citizen that just flipped out and reverted to gun violence – I was working for a business owner in 1989 who was having problems with his CPA, one morning I went to the lobby between his office and the CPA’s office and he told me to wait for him to go home and get a phone as it appeared that the CPA had taken all the phones from his office. I waited, so he returned with a phone and told me to go into his office and… Read more »

Otto Didact

“I don’t think I’m a coward, but recognizing evil takes an emotional toll.” If recognizing the objective existence of evil “takes an emotional toll”, Mr Morse, then you are, in fact, a coward. Evil is a part of the makeup of the universe. Resistance to following a moral code is an intrinsic part of human nature. The inability to face and accept reality on its own terms is symptomatic of mental illness. While recognizing evil is not pleasant, doing so should NOT extract an emotional toll. Such behavior and attitude is indicative of a failure to reach emotional maturity. A… Read more »


Simple as this maybe! “Utopia!” Left US when Adam and Eve were thrown out of the Garden of Eden! Alls fair in Love or War! Who said , life is going to be hard? It is hard…. to be safe is not because man is his own worst enemy! He will Lie, cheat, steal and kill you and at the same time he well protect you . So, be prepared you control you on security !


If you think about it for a moment, it becomes very obvious that NO law can possibly stop a crime. The ONLY thing you can expect from a law, is that it will make the socially imposed penalty for committing that crime more severe. Even that is only helpful if potential criminals really believe that there is a high probability that they will both be CAUGHT after committing the crime, and then PUNISHED for it by the court. In fact, neither is highly probable. Many years ago I saw an interview with F. Lee Baily, the famous defense lawyer, in… Read more »


Well, this is a telling psychological analysis of poor gil. It just can NOT comprehend realism and real world violence. As so aptly noted ” The antipathy towards gun owners is not based upon stopping violence, but upon reducing the discomfort felt by idealists. For the idealist, letting society take the burden removes both the duty and the emotional cost of facing an imperfect world. For the idealist, protecting the fantasy narrative is more important than respecting the facts.” Thank You Mr. Morse for a snapshot into the motivating psyche of the gils, shannun wutts, hypocryte fainstein,upchuk schumers and rich… Read more »


Utopiaan iyouth n Broken Arrow ,OK just got themselves killed having brass knuckles , knives wearing masks too bad they were 16 17 and 18 when they trying to rob a house. The homeowners son shot all 3 with a AR15 . So how needs a AR15 homeowners to protect themselves like this man did from youth gone wrong. Blame the parents raising bad ignorant kids.

Jack Frost

After the recent terrorist attacks using cars and trucks the idealists are actually talking about restricting driving licenses. Want to drive a truck, then you need to show good cause to do so. We may be restricted to owning butter knives if they get their way. Their inability to blame the person committing crime is truly amazing. It’s not their fault they were impoverished or mistreated as a child….whatever, but never anything or anyone other than the object used to perpetrate the crime. This must be some kind of mental deficiency, a sickness that needs to be identified and treated… Read more »

Peter Karr

But, but, but butter knives can be used to spread butter on bread and cut slices of butter to put in the food we cook, which will then cause increased cholesterol and clog our arteries. Then we’ll get heart attacks and strokes and die. Or we’ll require a doctor’s care to recover our health. So no one NEEDS butter knives, they can cause health violence by clogging up our bodies. No butter knives, they’re scary.

Otto Didact

You forgot to mention that butter knives can also be sharpened and thus could be used to maim or even kill someone. So butter knives must be prohibited for the greater good.

Tom Stelene

A utopian society is planned, run and managed by omnipotent ‘elites.’ Utopianism is about control, stability, conformity, obedience and order. A man’s right to be armed threatens the utopian agenda. An armed man is independent in that he can kill game to feed himself and defend himself, his family, his property and his liberty. The notion of individuals keeping and bearing arms by right doesn’t fit in a utopia. What utopian elite could tolerate that? Utopians promulgate their ‘noble lie’ that ‘gun control’ prevents crime. ‘Useful idiots’ believe it no matter how much ‘gun control’ fails to prevent crime. The… Read more »

Wild Bill

@hotshottertom S, Yes, and it started with Jeremy Bentham.

Martin Bare

Seldom do I see the truth of the matter presented in such a clear manner. This should be required reading. I personally know people who year after year, create new versions of the Idealist fantasy for themselves and others to believe in. When confronted by reality, their mind quickly flutters to whatever utopian defense they choose to believe in at that moment. They are sure it will start to work as soon as enough people start to believe. At the same time, being the grown up child of a Law Enforcement Officer, I continue to be a concealed carrier, suffering… Read more »

Roy D.

For some people the truth is as alien as anything which might visit us from outer space. They don’t recognize it when it is right in front of their face and even if they were to recognize it, they would turn their face so they would not have to deal with it. When you render it all down, it comes to dealing in truth or not.


Re: A correction to the graphic titled “People Affected by Gun Laws”. It should read “Criminals who use guns are not affected at all unless caught!”