I have given this subject far more thought than I normally do on politically charged issues, and I have come up with my own theory about gun violence in this country.

The way I see it, the problem isn’t the number of guns out there nor what kind they are. No, the real problem is what happens to certain individuals when they began to carry or collect guns. I like to call it “gun mentality.” However, this being Texas, a better description might be “cowboy mentality.”

My premise is that the mere possession of a gun can trigger devastating changes in how people act, especially when the gun is in the hands of the “wrong person” — and I’m not just talking about the mentally deranged. I’m talking mostly about bullies, hotheads, and people who resort to guns because they’re too cowardly to deal with their problems any other way.


While researching this article, I talked with several veteran police officers who offered some insight on civilians and guns. Their basic contention is that when someone is carrying a gun, the mental and physical dynamics of attitude and confrontation change immediately.

A person who might have walked away from a verbal assault or, at worst, lost a fistfight finds new “courage” with the possession of a firearm. It often sounds like this: “Come any closer, M—–f—–er, and I’ll blow your head off.”

Adam Lanza, who killed 20 children and six staffers at Sandy Hook Elementary School, had exhibited deep psychological and anti-social behavior. Healthcare professionals knew it, and more importantly so did his mother.

At the same time Adam’s mother was trying to deal with his problems, she had a house full of weapons and ammunition. And, not surprisingly, she had a “guns are cool” attitude, almost always part of a gun mentality.

Despite her son’s strong anti-social behavior, his mother regularly took Adam to a shooting range. In some inexplicable way, she thought this was good therapy for her son. I feel this is a common thought process for people with a gun mentality.

If Adam Lanza’s mom hadn’t been so interested in guns, Adam himself probably would have been terrified of them or uncomfortable around them. At the very least, he would not have known how to load them and shoot with any degree of accuracy.

It is interesting to note that in an attempt to divert attention from the discussion of background checks, the National Rifle Association has preached that the real problem is allowing the mentally ill to possess guns.

Sure, Adam Lanza would have failed any “mental” test relative to gun ownership, but it wasn’t Adam who bought the guns or suggested going to the firing range. It was an otherwise perfectly sane person with a “gun mentality” who bought the guns and put them in the hands of a mentally disturbed individual.

This discussion begs the question: How did this mentality develop? A quarter-century ago, a normal household might have had one handgun for defense and a rifle or shotgun for hunting. Gun shows were held maybe once a year, and guns were sold primarily at sporting-goods stores. Assault rifles weren’t in the mix, and no one would ever have thought of carrying a gun on the streets.

More important, school shootings were nonexistent. But we have now had 74 school shootings just in the 18 months since Sandy Hook. Prior to this, there had not been 74 school shootings since guns were invented.

Today it’s not uncommon for even non-collectors to own six or seven firearms. Gun shows are held every weekend, and hardly a day goes by that I don’t see a full-page ad for a gun store offering the latest and greatest weapons.

Guns and gun ownership have become “cool,” and more and more states are allowing citizens to carry them openly. (Georgia state law allows citizens to take guns into bars, churches, government buildings, and schools.) Add in Wayne LaPierre of the NRA preaching that the answer to gun violence is more guns, and you have the perfect formula for growing the gun mentality.

Sure, it’s true that it takes a person using a gun to turn it into a lethal weapon. But the path to using violence is so much shorter when a gun is at hand. You could say that guns provide people with a means to kill people.
Fort Worth freelance writer Frank Matthews can be reached at or at


  1. You need to do some research as your assertions fail when confronted with fact. Many homes that had guns 25 years ago (and much longer than that), had numerous guns if they were actually used. Last century saw a huge increase in guns at home, in part when returning soldiers came back with spoils of war in the form of captured guns along with their own issued firearms. Those that took an interest in guns acquire more.

    The problem is violence, not guns. Mental health improvements will help more than any other solution offered, all while not infringing upon our Constitutional protected rights.

  2. So, now it’s not the gun, it’s the ‘mentality’? There are several things wrong with this article. First, there have NOT been 74 school shooting since Sandy Hook. That stat was thrown out and the news outlets ran with it without verification. You say “a quarter century ago” like it was a long time ago. In 1989, you would still see rifles and shotguns on the window racks of pickups. That stopped when smash & grab thefts went up. Go back 20 years before that and you could order a gun from Sears or Wards just like you did a shirt or shoes. I would like for you to name a few of the “more and more states” that are allowing citizens to carry openly. Also, how is the NRA “diverting attention from the discussion about background checks”? There is a background check system in place, run by the Federal Gov’t that was signed off by no less than the Brady group. If that check system isn’t being maintained and updated and violators being prosecuted, who’s fault is that? How about enforcing the laws on the books? You fail to mention killer at UCSB stabbed and ran down victims with his car before using his gun. Bottom line, all were tools used by a deranged individual.

  3. It seems like a common sense approach. The GOP and NRA have even stated that the problem is not “the guns” but the mentally ill. “Do something about that,” they say.

    Thing is, whenever lawmakers get around to trying to pass laws regarding notifications and gun ownership among those with mental issues, those laws are blocked because suddenly those poor mentally ill people are being diabolically deprived of their right to bear arms, own guns, defend themselves, and generally shoot anyone whom they fear might do them harm.

    The mental health “issue” is also a red herring in another way: the same people who tell you that the real problem is “mental health” have no interest in actually funding mental health.

    In fact, mental health, along with family planning, are often among the first set of services cut when conservatives gain power.

    So the next time a politician stands up and says that the problem is not “the guns” but the mentally ill, ask them just how much money they’re willing to budget to solve the problem.

    Then watch them backpedal.

  4. First of all, the “74 shootings” propaganda has been totally refuted at this point, and even CNN did a retraction, stating the number was closer to 15, but if you actually take the time to look at the shootings included in that number, it’s inflated by unrelated scenarios like two gang members having a shootout on the sidewalk outside a school campus in the middle of the night.

    As far as the rest of the article is concerned, this is a tired argument that the gun community has heard parroted over and over and over again, and in spite of the prevalence of this propaganda among anti-gun zealots, it’s pathetically easy to refute…

    The biggest problem with the “guns turn law-abiding citizens into crazed psychopaths” theory (basically your thesis here) is the mountain of statistical evidence suggesting otherwise.

    Most telling is the fact that CCW holders commit crimes (violent and non-violent) at a lower rate than police officers. Google that statistic yourself and verify the sources (instead of “thinking about it far more than you normally do” in a basement alone somewhere).

    Also noteworthy is the fact that we have more guns in this country and more law-abiding citizens who carry regularly (per capita) than we have at any time in this nation’s history, and the homicide rate is at a 100 year low, while gun homicide is at a 20 year low.

    Oh, and as a rule, people on the right side of an issue don’t need to fabricate evidence.

  5. This isn’t about our right to keep and bear arms. This is about government operating outside the rule of law. The U.S. Constitution is a limitation on the government, not on private individuals. It does not prescribe the conduct of private individuals, only the conduct of the government. It is not a charter for government power, but a charter of the citizen’s protection against the government. The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, and if we do not tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution the second becomes the legalized version of the first. There has never been a golden age of liberty, and there never will be. People who value freedom will always have to defend it from those who claim the right to wield power over others.

  6. “Laws that forbid the carrying of arms… disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes…. Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve, rather, to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.” – Thomas Jefferson’s “Commonplace Book,” 1774-1776

  7. Frank, there’s a good way to test your theory. Take a city where, owing to its “cowboy mentality” it’s fairly easy to legally possess a gun. Houston, for example. Compare its per capita gun deaths with a similar sized city where it’s relatively difficult to legally possess a gun. Chicago, for instance. You’ll find that there’s a direct correlation: More legally-owned guns = fewer gun deaths. The difference is huge. Check it out.

  8. I don’t read any article past when they name the person who does the shooting. Please stop publishing shooter’s names.

  9. I don’t read any article past when they name the person who does the shooting. Please stop publishing shooter names.

  10. I don’t read any article past when they name the person who does the shooting. Please stop publishing shooter names. I hope that this changes soon.

  11. It’s funny how zealously overgrown children crave and thus need to protect their “right” to their toys, a need that has become so warped that they now insist on carrying their crude play-things into public places, the way children in my day wore Davy Crocket hats and carried plastic pistols. I guess we should not be surprised that this fantasy they’re acting out has managed to so pervert our legal system that not only can they openly carry assault rifles–monstrous weapons expressly designed to efficiently kill human beings–but they can even use them on someone merely on the pretext of a perceived threat–whether real or imagined–and get away with it. Now, it appears, their need to defend this so-called right even includes quibbling over the number of school shootings that have taken place in recent years. But shame on the adults among us for enabling and tolerating these oversized child zealots.

    • Kids these days … don’t know a thing about Davy Crocket, nor his pistol. They believe the freedom and right to defend oneself is a fantasy that perverts justice. I hope someday they grow up to understand that, in the real adult world, gun ownership is an essential element of a free society.

  12. I don’t think that Frank Matthew’s article is well reasoned. He argues that the ownership of guns by those who have bought them openly, presumably for legitimate reasons, changes their mentality in a negative way. And he uses this proposistion in the broadest kind of generalization; and he goes on to support his idea with the example of the Lanza family, citing their part in the Sandy Hook School shooting. Is Matthews suggesting that young Adam Lanza and his mother were some typical American family? Seriously?

    Arguing for some general proposition, using an extemely untypical example, shouldn’t be evidence to convince anyone. And “hotheads and bullies” behind the wheels of cars must kill many times more people, than those who die from shootings, by guns that are lawfully owned, and in the hands of citizens. And remember that a lot of the gun homicides in this country are carried out by gangs and the criminal element; and these are not the people whom Matthews is focusing on, as he mulls how gun ownership changes the way gun owners think.

    Other civilized countries, Brazil for an example, have gun homicides several times the rate of this country. One can say that we do have a real gun violence problem in this country; but it does not concern domestic deaths by guns, either in the hands of criminals, or by other private individuals. For an example, what are we to think of our government, with its monopoly on violence, with the victims killied by its millions of bullets all around the world? This violence is the responsibility of the society alright; and it cannot even be excused as defensive killing, if we are honest about it. What are we to think of a government that has turned war into a lifestyle?– that has perverted all diplomacy into threats of war, if countries refuse to comply with its demands?

    And what motives must we attribute to a national government that militarizes police departments across the country? This same government is fanning the propaganda fires against the gun ownership that has been part of the culture of this country since its beginning. And yet this government is issuing billions of rounds of bullets and assault weapons to a gamut of federal agancies, whose need for such arsenals is hard to justify

    Moreover, Washington is supplying guns overseas to extremists who will shoot civilians, children too; and these extremists are even gunning to bring down foreign governments.

    I don’t endorse some of the childish and irresponsible acts of a few pro gun activists, who brandish powerful guns in public places, just for the shock effect. On the other hand, I am also appalled by the dishonest anti-gun campaign, promoteted not too subtly, by a government which traffics in guns itself in a most extraordinary way, and whose monopoly on violence, and enthusiasm for shooting people dead, is now terrifying the whole world.