Dr. Sigmund Freud, in his Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis (1933), expanded his theories on the interpretations of dreams to include weaponry as symbolizing the genitalia, and in particular, the penis.
According to Freud:
“All complicated machines and appliances are very probably the genitals — as a rule the male genitals — in the description of which the symbolism of dreams is as indefatigable as human wit. It is quite unmistakable that all weapons and tools are used as symbols for the male organ: e.g., ploughshare, hammer, gun, revolver, dagger, sword, etc.”
Along with this, Freud developed his theory of “penis envy” in girls and women. Seeing the father, who has a penis, as the seat of power and authority in the home, stated Freud: “Girls hold their mother responsible for their lack of a penis and do not forgive her for their being thus put at a disadvantage.”
While his theories, especially those relating to females, may seem misguided and misogynistic to many of us now, to Freud, the compulsion to own firearms stems from an unconscious need to compensate for a deep-seated psychological sense of insecurity and inadequacy in terms of power: in males, specifically for having a small or smaller-than-desired penis, and in females, in an attempt to symbolically grow a large penis.
In literature among other fields, this is a common trope. For example, in the 1890 stage play, Hedda Gabler, by Norwegian playwright, Henrik Ibsen, the play’s protagonist possesses a pair of dueling pistols formerly owned by her father. Though Hedda marries a man named George Tesman, she holds onto her family name of Gabler.
In the Victorian age, guns were seen as masculine objects, and in Freud’s theories, guns symbolized the penis. In this sense, the pistols serve as a continual reminder that she will always be a Gabler like her father, and could likewise indicate that she desires to be a man or even sees herself as a powerful man.
In their effort to counter this societal discourse often circulated by opponents of the sweeping and ingrained firearms culture embedded in the fabric of the United States, many run rights advocates, members of what I have termed the “Pro-Firearms with No More Regulations Movement,” have attempted to turn the psychological tables by attaching themselves to an alleged statement Sigmund Freud supposedly made:
“A fear of weapons is a sign of retarded sexual and emotional maturity.”
The problem for members of this movement, however, is that Freud never uttered this. Neither this statement nor anything even approaching it appears in any of Freud’s works in any of its translations.