Analogies have a lot of power.  Not as much power as a .375, but power to make people think about objects and actions in particular ways.

An analogy, for those of you who haven’t heard that word since your high school English class, is a way of making a comparison between two objects, events, or actions in order to show a similarity in some respect.   When someone said “A new baby is like a game you’ve never played before: you have to learn the rules as you go along,” they didn’t mean that a baby IS a game, just that it is like a game in some respects.  Some analogies have to explain the similarity, the way the baby analogy did, but many leave the similarities to be inferred: “My love is like a red red rose,” “Cigarettes are like time bombs,” “Being on a diet is like having a second job.”    So, where do guns come in?

I’ve been keeping track of some gun-related analogies that I’ve seen or heard, and I just Googled for more. What do they tell us about how people think about guns?

People unfriendly to guns, or just unknowledgeable about them, often come up with analogies comparing firearms to very dangerous things.  For some reason, snakes seem to be more popular than other dangerous beasts.


  • “A gun is like a rattlesnake. You can try to keep it in a cage, but sooner or later it’s going to get out and hurt someone.”
  • “A gun is like a snake. If it bites you, it can kill you.”
  • “A gun is like a live cobra. It can strike out at anytime.”
  • “Owning a gun is like digging a pit in the middle of the street for innocent people to fall into.”
  • “Guns are like the horror that escaped from Pandora’s box.”
  • “A gun is like a lightning rod to kids and young thugs.”
  • “A gun is like a cannon.”
  • “A gun is like a land mine.”


Whenever I talk to people who aren’t knowledgeable about guns, I assume that they have ideas like that in their heads, and the best way I know of starting a change is to acknowledge the starting point explicitly:

People who have no training in the use of guns usually think that a gun is like a bomb: it can go off at any moment, and hurt or kill someone.  But to those of us who know how to use guns properly, a gun is like a fire extinguisher: it is a piece of emergency rescue equipment that you hope you will never have to use, but if you do need it, it can save your life and the lives of your family until the professionals can get there to take over.

What other analogies do gun-friendly folk use to describe their firearms?

There are many analogies comparing guns to tools, because of their utility, their mechanical nature, and the potential to be used for good or bad purposes,:


  • ” A gun is like a wrench – it’s just a tool “
  • “To a lot of people where I live, a gun is like a chain saw. It’s a tool.”
  • “In West Virginia, owning a gun is like owning a blender.   Everybody just has one.”
  • “A gun is like a crossbow.  It shoots little bits of metal.”
  • “A gun is like a baseball bat.  They are both tools for a specific task.”
  • “Guns are like hammers–they’re both tools with metal parts that could be used to kill someone.”
  • “One thing I’ve always loved about this state is that guns are like wrenches here – everyone has one.”
  • “Guns are like all human tools, as good or as evil as the human wielding them.”
  • “A gun is like any other tool – and may be used for good or for ill. The tool has never been the problem; only those who misuse it.”
  • There are many analogies comparing guns to useful things other than tools:
  • “A gun is like a credit card. Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.”
  • “A gun is like a pair of shoes, you need to find something that fits you and not the person next to you.”
  • “In many ways, owning a gun is like owning a car alarm. If a thief notices an alarm installed in your vehicle, the vast majority of times, they will simply ignore it and move on to an easier target.”


One of the most popular types of analogies compares guns to various kinds of safety or emergency equipment, or insurance:


  • “A gun is like a parachute. When you need it you NEED it!”
  • “A gun is like a seatbelt; when you need it, you need it now!”
  • “Owning a gun is like owning a flashlight. We rarely expect our power grid go to go out, but we keep a flashlight around just in case. “
  • “Owning and carrying a gun is like owning and using a smoke detector or a fire extinguisher.  You hope you never have to use them but when you do nothing else works as well to keep you from harm.”
  • “A gun is like a fire extinguisher. You hope and pray that you don’t have to use it. If you DO have to use it, that means something has gone terribly wrong. But if you need it, and don’t have it, your life could be over before you blink.”
  • “A gun is like fire insurance. You hope you never have to use it, but it’s there if you do.”
  • “Having a gun is like knowing first-aid, to prevent injury to self or loved ones.”
  • “A gun is like a tourniquet. Usually you never think about having one, but when you need one, you need one.”
  • “Having a gun is like having a spare tire.”
  • “A gun is like a fire-extinguisher. You hope to God in his heaven that you never have the need of it; but if you do need it, you need it desperately and nothing less will do. You wouldn’t try to extinguish a fire with a kippered herring, and a spray can of seasoning is of little use against a human predator intent on the worst kind of mayhem.”
  • “To go walking in the [East African] bush without a gun is like going dinghy sailing without a life-jacket.  Sooner or later you are going to need it; and if you haven’t got it you’re in trouble.”
  • “Guns are like health insurance or auto insurance.”
  • “Traveling without a gun is like boating without a lifejacket – you’re unlikely to need either one, but when you need it, you need it *now*.”


There are also lots of analogies for things that can be safe or dangerous, depending upon how they are used:


  • “Guns are like surfboards… They both look great over the fireplace, but if you don’t know what you’re doing when you use them, they’ll kill you.”
  • “A gun is like a car. Alone it is a piece of metal that is incapable of doing any harm.  Only in the hands of the wrong person can any damage be done.”
  • “A gun is like fire, it is dangerous but it can be used safely if under control.”
  • “Guns are like swimming pools. They can be immediately lethal to small children if encountered without supervision.”
  • “Guns are like alcohol: valuable, useful, popular, and fun – but, without discretion, self-destructive to the user.”
  • “A gun is like a car — it’s a tool that can be used responsibly, but it’s also something that can be quite easily lethal when it’s used otherwise.”


Other analogies show some of the creativity of gun owners:


  • Owning a gun is like having sex. If you’re not old enough to be accepting the consequences if something goes wrong, then don’t do it.”
  • “Guns are like politicians.  Never trust one and assume they are loaded.”
  • “Some people think buying a gun is like buying a flag. A lot of people think that it’s a patriotic duty.”
  • “In a small way a gun is like a truly fine cigar–the best of its kind in the world. They both take literally years to produce. “
  • “A gun is like a bird: If you don’t grab it tightly enough, it will fly away; grab it too tightly…and it will die.”
  • “One man with a gun is like a hundred men with spears.”
  • “A gun is like a mouse, you just point and click.”
  • “Rushing to buy a gun is like rushing into a marriage.”
  • “A gun is like a wife — they can be your best friend or they can hurt you.”
  • “A gun is like a really good friend — treat it right and it will never let you down.”
  • “A gun is like a woman. When you buy a gun you are buying a companion for the rest of your life. If you use a gun long enough it becomes a part of you. If you use a gun right and treat it right it gets so you can’t help but love the gun.”
  • “Using a gun is like driving. The more you do it, the more likely accidents can happen unless you are cautious.”
  • “Old guns are like old sweethearts: There’s usually a good reason why you didn’t sick with them, but you remember them fondly.”
  • “A gun is like birth control. Some people don’t want to think about the possibility of ever needing it, so they won’t talk about it and don’t prepare by learning how.  Such people tend to think that other people who do talk or prepare are bad in some way.”


So, now finally on to our last analogy.  Why is a gun like red lace panties?  Here are some reasons I’ve thought of; perhaps you can come up with more:


  • Because it is nobody’s business but yours when you carry (wear) it, or why.
  • Because nobody has the right to see it or know about it unless you voluntarily let them.
  • Because you don’t want to flaunt it in the presence of people you don’t know very well, even though it is perfectly safe and legal.
  • Because someone knowing you are wearing it may become very conscious of it, distracted by it, unable to ignore it, even obsessed with it, but someone who doesn’t know you are wearing it will not.
  • Because it’s a private matter, but NOT anything immoral, distasteful or shameful.
  • Because you don’t have to tell anyone about it, or answer questions about whether you have it, or why.
  • Because it’s fun!

This article first appeared in the Jul-Aug 2004 issue of Women&Guns magazine. Copyright © 2004  Lyn Bates