Illustration by Wes X.

The #1 Reason People Own Guns

Wes X
3 min readMar 17

Last month, I watched the city board meeting in McHenry County, IL. The city of McHenry was voting on becoming a “sanctuary city” for the recently passed Protect Illinois Communities Act. This meant they were discussing whether to comply with the recent ban on assault weapons.

When it came time for the public comments, people queued up to speak. It wasn’t long before things got weird. The speeches veered into paranoid rants about the holocaust, the new world order, the January 6 Capitol attack, how we’re on the verge of an Orwellian dystopia.

Just the whiff of gun control rendered some pro gun people apoplectic. One man started sputtering about dominoes falling and that next will one will be the 2nd amendment. Another seemed to threaten a judge with a very poorly-timed, gun-related euphemism.

People who seemed normal, when they got to the podium, suddenly went nuclear about their “divine right” to own a gun.

People who looked crazy- disheveled hair, rumpled clothes- delivered eloquent, logical rebukes of gun rights arguments.

The great gun debate is a complicated study in conflicting narratives. There were many gun owners who spoke about having smart gun management. One lady helped other women learn how to protect themselves with guns. The meeting was a perfect microcosm of why people cannot agree on gun legislation in this country.

Eventually, the town voted for protecting guns. The whole spectacle made me want to find out why people love guns so much that they’ll suffer the deaths of so many rather than surrender to any kind of control.

There are all sorts of reasons people own guns — ownership is fused with their identity, a remnant of frontier life, fear of government, a symbol of freedom, etc.

In a study that came out in Dec. 2019 that explored the psychological reasons why people love their guns, most of the research concluded the biggest reason they buy guns is simple — protection.

The biggest reason they buy guns is simple — protection.

Specifically, protection from a past victimization, or of a future one. (Kleck et al., [2011].