A Taxonomy of Gun-Humpers

I know many people who own guns and are responsible gun owners. Their reasons for owning guns are varied—some are plinkers, some are hunters, others are hobbyists. One guy has a magnificent collection of muzzleloader rifles, inherited from his father and proudly displayed. Other guys don’t feel safe without at least one gun in the home for self-protection, no matter what the statistics say about guns increasing the probability of people under their roofs falling victim to gun-related violence. Whatever……it’s about feeling safer, not being safer.

Heck, maybe I own a gun or two—I’m not saying. I’d never post anything affirming that one way or the other. Ironically, thieves have been known to target the houses of dudes who boast about their gun collections, specifically to steal the guns.

But let’s get to the point: Some gun owners are bat-shit crazy—people for whom guns aren’t mechanical objects, but a way of life. Here, in no particular order, is an incomplete taxonomy of the people I refer to as gun-humpers. It’s an incomplete list because there are probably taxa that are yet to be discovered and described by science.

The Libertarian Gun Fetishist (Gunfornicatus horderius)

For this guy, it’s all about freedoms. Broadly, the God-given right to do whatever you want, even if that’s with little respect to the consequences. Narrowly, the freedom to hunt, target shoot, and to spend more than half of your family’s disposable income on a raging gun fetish. The toll of gun-related deaths in America is just the price we must pay for the freedom to do what we want, never mind the ongoing carnage. The cost-benefit ratio easily favors lax gun control, because freedom is the big fat thumb on the side of the pan scale that’s weighing guns. It may be a somewhat nihilistic philosophy, but unlike some of the positions held by other types, at least the internal logic is consistent—it’s a simple but rational worldview: Me and my guns come first.

Quote: “Man, that bump-stock the Vegas shooter used? I gotta pick me up one of those.”

The Damaged Goods (Gunfornicatus askeerdei)

This guy is afraid—deeply traumatized. Something awful—maybe a succession of awful events—happened to him in his youth, and he’s never recovered. He’s scared, all day, every day. Afraid of his domineering and cruel late father, afraid of the schoolyard bullies who tormented him, afraid of the savage swarthy people in the inner city, afraid of wild animals in the woods, afraid of his own shadow. He believes in his core that if he owns a bunch of guns, he can protect himself from the bullies and other bad people. He constantly fantasizes about the day that some bad guy tries to victimize him again and he gets to show the bad guy who’s in charge. Damaged Goods is so fearful of The Bad Guy that he often leaves guns unsecured, for quick access……where his kids can get ahold of them. The outcome is often tragic.

Quote: “It’s all about self-protection. You have to be willing and able to protect yourself and your family with lethal force, or you’re not a real man.”

The Sociopathic Jackass (Gunfornicatus analostium)

This guy operates on the lowest of moral planes: Might makes right. He sees the basic currency of human interactions as people forcing their will on others. He despises the modern world, and fantasized about the breakdown of civilization, when he will—at long last—come unleashed to be A Man in Full. He’s the anonymous online commenter whose every comment reflects hatred and anger. Often a bitter loser, his social status peaked in junior high or high school, and he’s probably the bully who helped create the Damaged Goods guy above. If he cracks, he decides that killing strangers in the double-digits lets everyone know how badly he’s been aggrieved, often concluding with suicide or a shootout with the police. Or he’s the guy who kills his wife and kids before he drives into the woods to off himself. He usually lets the family dog live—the subservient dog knows who’s the alpha male. The dog “gets” him.

Quote: “You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? Then who the hell else are you talkin’ to? You talkin’ to me? I’m the only one here. Who the f*** do you think you’re talking to?”

The Mouth-Breather (Gunfornicatus dumbassei)

This guy is immortalized in the song “Redneck Rampage” by Mojo Nixon and the Toadliquors. “They got great big guns, little bitty brains…” Guns are toys. They make loud noises, they scare the crap out of city people, you can blast holes in road signs with them, and you can kill wild critters just for the hell of it—ain’t nothin’ funner than shootin’ armadillos out on Interstate 10. Mouth-Breather uncritically believes every single piece of misinformation propaganda issued by the NRA, which he encounters almost exclusively in the form of memes that he reposts faithfully. His literacy level never advanced beyond second grade—he’s apt to post a picture of his new gun on social media with the caption, “My new riffle. Any u antigun qeers want a peace?” He’s so jarringly stupid that encountering him online renders you certain that we are a failed, doomed species.

Quote: “Chicago got the strictest gun laws in ‘Murica, but a million people git kill’t there wit guns ever year. Tha’s proof gun control don’t work. ‘Course, they’s all black, too.”

The Delusional Patriot (Gunfornicatus delusium)

This guy believes that the 2nd Amendment is a hedge against tyranny, which he tends to define as all the laws that he doesn’t like. Of all the gun-humpers, his understanding of the 2nd Amendment is closest to its original intent. However, whereas the Founders might have viewed an armed and well-regulated citizen-militia as a hedge against tyranny, foreign and domestic, the Delusional Patriot isn’t much concerned with outside tyrants, or with that “well-regulated” malarkey. He views individual patriots like himself as the primary hedge against home-grown oppressors. This appears at first blush to be sound reasoning—an authoritarian thug could never take over the United States by force because there are far too many armed citizens.

The flaw in the theory is that huge numbers of Delusional Patriots are rabid political authoritarians who support every attempted tyrannical act by our current POTUS and his like. They aren’t too keen on the 1st Amendment, either—their law-and-order authoritarianism is often mated to a believe that this nation was founded on a certain religion, and the laws of that particular religion must be honored and enforced by the government. Delusional Patriot often claims to lean libertarian, but he’s anti-libertarian to the core—he pines for security and conformity, not freedom.

Quotes: “Build the wall.”


“You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.”

I’ll conclude by repeating: This is a taxonomy of genus gun-humper, a subset of the larger family of gun owners. It’s an incomplete taxonomy, but every taxonomy needs to start somewhere. If you’re aware of a taxon I’ve left out, feed me your knowledge in the comments. I foresee a publication in a flagship academic journal in my future.

Steve Towers
Steve Towers is co-owner of a local environmental consultancy. After obtaining his Ph.D. from UC Davis and dabbling as a UCD lecturer, he took a salary job with a Sacramento environmental firm. Sitting in stop-and-go traffic on Highway 50 one afternoon, he reckoned that he was receiving 80 hours of paid vacation per year and spending 520 hours per year commuting to and from work. He and his wife Elise sold their house and moved to Redding three months later, and have been here for more than 20 years. His hobbies include travel, racquet sports, taking the dogs on hikes, and stirring pots. He can be reached at towers.steven@gmail.com
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40 Responses

  1. Avatar conservative says:

    Commercial pot growers are some of the worst gun users.

    I am so happy after closing on a house in Northern Nevada and selling the house in Shasta county where pot growers gunfire was a weekly annoyance.

    If you live in Shasta county, you should be reading the Eureka Times Standard online.

    Commercial pot growing, gun culture, drug culture and crime are as unstoppable as the obesity epidermic and tobacco epidemic in Shasta, Humboldt, Lake and Trinity counties.

    One of the memorable events in my unhappy investment in Shasta county was the semi-automatic gunfight at harvest time between two commercial pot growers. It lasted about five minutes. Hundreds of rounds were fired. The Sheriff’s office responded with a helicopter and five or six cars. There were no arrests according to the sheriff’s online log. One grower told deputies he was shooting at mountain lions at 10 pm on a dark autumn night.

  2. Avatar cheyenne says:

    Steve, I like it, well done. It shows that the Right doesn’t have an exclusive claim to stereotyping the opposition.

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      The word “stereotype” derives from the Greek words “stereos” (firm, solid) and “typos”(impression). Hence, “solid impression on one or more idea/theory.”

      I would argue that a taxonomy isn’t stereotyping, because (1) as I acknowledged, it’s expandable, (2) it’s subject to alteration based on new information coming to light, and (3) it’s a subset of a larger (here undescribed) set of gun owners.

      Also, maybe you misunderstand my intent. I don’t regard gun owners as “the opposition”—not even those of the gun-humper variety. Up to certain lines in the sand*, I’m an adherent of George Carlin’s philosophy: Drink up, Shriners! Knock yourselves out, gun-humpers!

      *One line in the sand, in my experience, included my former next-door neighbor’s habit of getting up at 7:00 am on Sunday and shooting his .44 magnum a couple of times for the sole purpose of annoying all of his neighbors. I dropped a dime on that rectal orifice. I’m fairly confident that sociopath is either dead or in prison by now.

      • Avatar cheyenne says:

        My neighbor is frequently shooting at early morning hours. They also fly helicopters over my house at all hours. Of course that’s what I get for living near an air base.

  3. Avatar Justin says:

    Imagine how offensive this might be if the same article were written about people who like tennis or cars or writing…

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      Tennis players and golfers frequently make fun of the many fellow players who have equipment fetishes. I rib people I know who own Jeeps rather than Toyotas as field vehicles (mostly regarding the issue of reliability). Nobody gets deeply butt-hurt.

      It’s gun owners who seem to have thin skins, for whatever reason. And I’ll give you writers—we’re easily bruised, too.

      • Avatar Justin says:

        that is quite the false equivalence…but I get it, cruelty and bullying work. If gun owners are sufficiently dehumanized, then things will change.

        • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

          It’s an equivalence that you posited first: “Imagine how offensive this might be if the same article were written about people who….” So I did imagine that, like you asked.

          I’m damned near 60 years old. I’m years beyond thinking that something I write is going to change anything. I’m just an amused and bemused observer and commentator.

          Lighten up, Francis.

          • Avatar Justin says:

            There is a difference between teasing someone about their choice in equipment and suggesting they are somehow defective for their beliefs… Its a great tactic, its been used before.

          • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

            No, Justin—I’m not teasing them about their use of equipment. I’m teasing them about their equipment fetishes. It is delusional to think that there’s a magic racquet out there that’s going to fix your weaksauce second serve or crappy backhand. It’s counter-productive to continuously change racquets and endlessly tinker with string combinations and tensions when you’re a mediocre 3.0 player.

            If you think that your serve and backhand problems will be solved once you find the right racquet, you are defective in your beliefs.

          • Avatar Justin says:

            I guess what one guy thinks is funny just looks like bullying and bigotry to another…

          • Avatar Sam says:

            See “Damaged Goods.”

            We have ourselves a type-specimen. So easily offended. So hurt.

    • Avatar Joanne Lobeski Snyder says:

      Justin, ALL of any group of people are not the same. This article starts with a description of responsible gun owners. This article is about people who aren’t responsible gun owners. The difference between them and tennis players or writers is how dangerous they are.

  4. Avatar Gdogs says:

    You definitely left off at least one…

    The Magniloquent Elitist (Gunfornicatus pompousei)
    This guy believes that he’s the only rational gun owner out there that understands the need to sacrifice some rights in order for gun haters to “feel” safer – which is odd, seeing as how he also believes that 90% of NRA members are in favor of universal background checks. He thinks that since he owns a firearm or two that he can speak for all gun owners as to what guns they should or shouldn’t be allowed to own. After all, he truly understands other gun owners and what’s going through their heads.

    Of course his guns seldom leave their cases, and should the need to use one arise, he’d likely have to hunt for the shells that he bought 5 years ago. He never practices shooting and is very likely a danger to himself and those around him when he does use a gun. Still, he does find some satisfaction in owning a firearm – so he can present himself as a true American, exercising all rights granted to him by the Constitution.

    Quote: “No one needs an AR-15 to hunt deer” “

    • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

      You got me. I had to look up “magniloquent.”

      I’ll let you in on a little secret that contradicts what I said up above about revealing whether or not I own firearms: I own zero guns. That’s in part because of what you’ve pointed out—owning deadly firearms is a serious responsibility, and I don’t want it. I don’t want to invest the time that it takes to become an expert, and I don’t want to be a reckless non-expert gun owner. I’ve seen enough of such idiots to know that I don’t want to join their club.

      That, and the melancholic and murderous tendencies that run in my bloodline.

      Oh, and you are mistaken if you think I have a need to feel safer. I understand relative risk well enough to know that I run a very low risk of dying from a bullet—and I’m in a profession where I’ve had guns pointed at me at close range twice over the course of 25 years. In both cases, had I been carrying and tried to pull my gun, I’d have been dead.

      • Avatar Gdogs says:

        I wasn’t necessarily pointing my comment directly at you (well maybe a little bit), there are plenty of “gun owners” that fit my narrative (and unfortunately yours too). And I should say that I’m not one of those guys that thinks everyone should own a gun – quite the contrary in fact. I’m put a little at ease knowing that there are people that admittedly shouldn’t own one, and then don’t.

        But let’s be honest. If you can manage to not commit suicide, join a gang, engage in criminal activity, or love an abusive spouse, then the likelihood of dying by a gun is statistically speaking non existent. The best part about that is that those are all easily avoidable actions. I get a kick out of the gun grabbers that insist that you are 1o0x more likely to die by a gun if you live in a house with one. Ok, sure I’ll go along with that number… assuming you can go along with the reality that 100 x .000000001 is still a very small number. But I suppose that just doesn’t have the ring to it that 100x more likely to die does – especially when they are pushing an agenda.

      • Avatar Gdogs says:

        As an aside, I did enjoy this article – I like snarky afterall, even when aimed at “my people”. Liked it enough that I read quite a few of your other pieces – and enjoyed them as well. Keep up the good work.

  5. R.V. Scheide Jr. R.V. Scheide Jr. says:

    I was trying to think of something funny to say when news came in that five people including the shooter have just been killed in a mass shooting down by Red Bluff. Shooter sounds like a Damaged Goods or Sociopathic Jackass at this point. More details to follow, I’m sure.

    It seems like their may be a category for the more serious Sovereign Citizen types, the ones who fantasize they’ll be taking on the National Guard with their home armory, and occasionally carry out those fantasies on local police departments.

    Anyway, it’s never the right time to talk about gun control so I’ll shut up.

    • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

      As of today there have been 317 mass shootings in the USA in 2017, resulting in 411 deaths and 1,619 injuries. Those statistics include today’s mass shooting in Tehama County. People who argue that those numbers are trivial relative to other risks, like driving the kids to school, are right—there were 37,461 vehicle crash fatalities in the USA in 2016. But of course, those are just the mass shootings—we keep track of those because they’re horrific and peculiarly American in that they happen here more than anywhere else.

      Almost certainly this guy was Sociopathic Jackass. The year I lived next door to one was a living hell.

      • R.V. Scheide Jr. R.V. Scheide Jr. says:

        The suicide stat doesn’t get enough attention.

      • Avatar Marc Carter says:

        Unfortunately, yet another. This time the kids in Fort Lauderdale spoke up. Their grief was raw, their rage palpable. Emma Gonzalez, a senior at Douglas, had the most searing indictment:

        “The people in the government who were voted into power are lying to us. And us kids seem to be the only ones who notice and are prepared to call B.S.

        “Companies, trying to make caricatures of the teenagers nowadays, saying that all we are are self-involved and trend-obsessed and they hush us into submissions when our message doesn’t reach the ears of the nation, we are prepared to call B.S.

        “Politicians who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats funded by the N.R.A., telling us nothing could ever be done to prevent this: we call B.S.

        “They say that tougher gun laws do not prevent gun violence: we call B.S.”

        The crowd was now joining in.

        “They say a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun: we call B.S.

        “They say guns are just tools, like knives, and are as dangerous as cars: we call B.S.

        “They say that no laws would have been able to prevent the hundreds of senseless tragedies that occur: we call B.S.

        “That us kids don’t know what we’re talking about, that we’re too young to understand how the government works.” The crowd was now in a frenzy of anger and sadness, the people around me tearing up as they yelled, “We call B.S.”

    • Avatar Damon Miller says:

      There is: “Terrorists.”

      • Avatar K. Beck says:

        Technically these shooters are not considered “terrorists.”

        terrorist |?ter?r?st|
        a person who uses unlawful violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aim

        They are “crazy people with guns” exercising their second amendment rights.
        Unless, of course they are making a statement about exercising their second amendment rights…then, perhaps, it becomes a political aim.

  6. Avatar conservative says:

    The gang related drive by shootings in the Bay area and other California county seats like Oroville, Yuba City, Marysville, Stockton, Eureka were important drivers in the death spiral of Redding and Shasta county.

    The gang member’s cuchillo is the weapon that transformed Redding. Remember the civic pride when the books were passed from the old library to the new? Drug users fled to Reading which has less obvious gang graffiti, drive by shootings, people in gang colors.

    A news aggregator which covers the Bay Area, Sac and the rest of Northern California would be useful. A gang related drive by shooting in Oroville makes the news. Gang members robbing drug users camping under a bridge do not make the news, but are an obvious reason why so many drug users choose Redding instead of other California county seats.

  7. Avatar Joanne Lobeski Snyder says:

    Great article. You did mention that this article was not about the responsible gun owners you know!
    I couldn’t wait to get out of the So Cal barrio where I lived because of all the stupid drive-by shooting. Here in Shasta County, I was almost shot along a country road by some guy shooting his his gun out the passenger side of the car he was riding in.
    Your descriptions perfectly fit some of the gun owners I know. The majority are those responsible people you mentioned at the start of your article who take gun safety classes, periodically hone their skills at a shooting range and never leave a loaded gun sitting around where a curious grandchild can find and play with it. Thank you Steve.

  8. Avatar Joanne Lobeski Snyder says:

    “The majority however are those”

  9. Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

    The elementary school in Rancho Tehama went on lockdown when the shooting started, and the shooter reportedly spent about six minutes trying to get into the school before giving up and moving on, out of sheer frustration, until the Tehama County deputies put the rabid dog down. Amazing job by the school administrators and teachers, who successfully prevented this piece of human filth from accomplishing what he went to the school to do. Well done!

    If one of them had shot the guy, that person would be lionized as a hero from coast to coast. But for merely keeping their heads and doing what needed to be done to prevent a massacre, they’re largely ignored.

  10. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    Trek — Just so you know, I read your comment before it was removed. I’d have kept it were it up to me—I can take getting hit with a dart in addition to throwing them. Regardless, I know where I live, and I wasn’t expecting this to be my most popular column. I was pretty sure I’d take some scheisse over it.

    I’m not sure what to make of your belief that I address everyone with insults, and cast off as idiots anyone who doesn’t agree with me. You claimed that I dismiss just about every reader who has replied to my writings or comments with derogatory names, or just wrote them off as uneducated. That’s not a reality-based assessment—look at the exchange with Gdogs and Cheyenne above. I can take getting ribbed by both of them, and I know they can take it in return. (Heck, if I’m ever in Cheyenne again, I’m asking Bruce if I can buy him breakfast.)

    I started and ended the essay above by pointing out that the taxonomy was a subset of a larger group. Still, a couple of people, including you, are hugely insulted. It’s tempting to assume that’s because you see yourself being mocked by one of those taxa.

    Just so you’ll know: My subversive goal was to get a conversation going about the last taxon: The Delusional Patriot. Libertarians and their arguments I can appreciate to varying degrees, including their views on gun control. But I do find it troubling—deeply troubling—that so many gun advocates/gun owners are rank authoritarians. So much so that a famous NRA board member can go on a talk radio program and speak openly of killing liberals, or say that former President Obama should be hung, and it barely makes a splash. Our current POTUS even defended those statements. Alas, my column failed to evoke that desired discussion. (I give myself a C- on this one.)

    I’ll be honest. It freaks me out more than a little, this nation lurching towards authoritarianism.

    • Avatar trek says:

      Fair enough, I too can also take it when I’m in the wrong but not based on my beliefs or my thoughts. For the most part I didn’t object to your story and I didn’t find myself in your satire humor. I do agree, idiots shouldn’t own guns nor should teachers be allowed to have a concealed weapon.

    • Avatar K. Beck says:

      “I’ll be honest. It freaks me out more than a little, this nation lurching towards authoritarianism.” Me too! AND reverting to the Wild West. It was disturbing enough when I moved to Redding and saw that here, now the whole country seems to be moving in that direction.

      Last I checked the open carry folks in the Bay Area gave it up because the majority of businesses there added carrying a gun to the list of “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Business” signs.

    • Avatar Justin says:

      Starting a conversation by insulting the other side doesn’t seem genuine and certainly isn’t a winning tactic. Then double down by telling people who might have different beliefs by telling them they are too sensitive…just seems like a school yard bully.

      It’s your right, and I would defend it. Maybe some people find it funny to ridicule other people for having different beliefs, but if we really want to fix the problem it is the worst possible tactic.

      • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

        Justin — How kind and thoughtful and gentle do you believe “your side” is when it comes to the gun debate? Ted Nugget—a board member of the NRA—openly talks about a day that will soon come when gun owners get to turn their guns on liberals—fellow Americans. He spoke openly of lynching President Obama. He justified both by calling liberals and Obama traitors. His version of talking to people who might have different beliefs about guns is to state that he can’t wait for the day when he gets to kill them. You go on any right-wing website, and you’ll see mountains of such statements in the comments sections. I’ve received threatening emails from such people.

        It’s your right to whine repeatedly about how you’re butt-hurt by my snarky style. But try growing a thicker skin, else you run the risk of coming off as Damaged Goods guy.

        If you think my intent with this column was to turn the minds of gun owners, think again—that’s a fool’s task. I stated my intent elsewhere in a comment above. It has to do with the ominous rise of authoritarianism in this country. Authoritarianism—not guns—is the biggest threat this country faces. But guns are a factor, because the authoritarians are armed.

        • Hal Johnson Hal Johnson says:

          “But guns are a factor, because the authoritarians are armed.”

          I suspect that they underestimate how many rural liberals are armed.

          • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

            Rural liberals?

            I take your point, though—many urban and suburban liberals, too. But it seems like it’s right-wing authoritarians who are the primary collectors of lots of military-style gear, including hoards of firearms and ammo in preparation for WTSHTF. I don’t know any liberals who own AR-15s or “tactical gear.”

            I don’t know that any of that matters—if full-tilt authoritarianism comes, it’ll likely be via political and institutional change, served up with a healthy helping of intimidation. If a real civil war broke out, it’d probably come down to which side the military threw in with (assuming the military stayed together).

        • Avatar Justin says:

          So, Ted Nuget’s behavior justifies yours…LOL

          • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

            I feel no need to justify what I wrote in this column. I’m just pointing out that your conservative outrage—like most reactionary outrage in the face of the slightest of slights from liberals—is laughable.

            On nearly a daily basis, the leader of the Republican Party goes on his Twitter account and behaves like a witless third-grade bully, often tweaking the nose of a fellow nut who has nuclear weapons…….and you’re worried about me?

        • Avatar cheyenne says:

          Steve, I guess I would fit in the Nuke’s are good group with a few silos of them in my neighborhood. And as I see several guardians of these “Bigger Than Your Gun” people on a daily basis and to a one they state Trump couldn’t launch them by himself. And I will believe those who actually care for those missiles over some google expert that only clicks on links without reading them. Loved your article and those who didn’t, oh well.

          • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

            I have a former colleague—an archaeologist—who spent a couple years in a silo in South Dakota. I guess it’s somewhat comforting to know that at least in the minds of the guys who hold the keys, Trump can’t go off the rails all by himself. To me it’s more comforting that there have allegedly been those conversations in the White House about what needs to happen if Trump totally loses his shit and decided we need to nuke North Korea because Kim calls him a ‘tard, or whatever.

            One of my top-three movies of all time is Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove,” in which deranged Gen. Jack D. Ripper unilaterally launched a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union. Peter Sellers played three roles in the flick, including British Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake, who tries to talk Gen. Ripper into recalling the attack. Sellers is hilarious as he initially tries to calmly talk sense into Ripper with his British restraint, and eventually begins to laugh nervously as he realizes how crazy Ripper really is.