David Joy, an author who lives in rural North Carolina, has written a lengthy essay about American gun culture in the New York Times in which he finds himself disturbed at the paranoia he sees in many of his fellow gun owners.
Even though Joy owns multiple guns himself and has been a gun owner for years, he finds himself feeling increasingly isolated by the dark overtones of American gun culture, which he says is now primarily driven by toxic fear.
“Fear is the factor no one wants to address — fear of criminals, fear of terrorists, fear of the government’s turning tyrannical and, perhaps more than anything else, fear of one another,” he says. “There’s no simple solution like pulling fear off the shelf. It’s an intangible thing. I recognize this, because I recognize my own and I recognize that despite all I know and believe I can’t seem to overcome it.”
Joy says that he has carried a gun on him for years — and he admits it’s likely due to a traumatic experience he had when he was 14 when an armed robber put a gun to his head and threatened to shoot him unless he handed over the money that was in his wallet.
All the same, he believes that the right to self defense has transformed into an all-encompassing paranoia about our fellow citizens that is harming our society.
“I’m torn between the culture I grew up with and how that culture has devolved,” he writes. “There are changes I know must come, changes to what types of firearms line the shelves and to the background checks and ownership requirements needed to carry one out the door. And there is an unrelenting fear of what could be lost — a subsistence culture already threatened by the loss of public land, rising costs and a widening rural-urban divide; the right of individuals to protect their own lives and the lives of their families.”