Metaphors of Morality in Politics: The Right to Bear Arms


George Lakoff overturns family relations on the internal political life of the state and fills bureaucratic mechanisms with feelings. Such an attitude towards politics helps people feel not as a soulless, indifferent detail in a vital mechanism but as a personality embedded in political and social institutions. George Lakoff separates conservative and liberal governments, dressing them in paternity. The conservative government is presented as a strict father concerned about children’s discipline and order (Green, 2006). Liberal government, according to George Lakoff, is an educative parent who tries to teach a child to make decisions, make choices and be responsible for him.

Strict Father

According to George Lakoff, genuine paternalism manifests itself precisely concerning a strict father, his children, and outside world. To such a father, the world seems unsafe evil, and from an early age, he instills in children attentiveness, caution, and increased responsibility. This responsibility in children, in his opinion, should develop into a strong sense of duty. Failure to fulfill this duty is equated with an immoral act: a fall. According to such a father, children learn discipline from their mistakes and eventually understand life. Such a father is focused on the dichotomy of ‘friend-foe’ or ‘us-them,’ his judgments can often seem cruel.

Nurtured Parent

The nurtured parent is focused on loving his children and does not perceive outside world around him as a constant danger. The nurtured parent shows care and guardianship over the child; he tries to instill in him the correct values, but at the same time leaves the freedom of choice almost always for the children. Such a parent postulates respect for children or by demonstrating his example to other families (with governments and other states). The nurtured parent happily solves his child’s problem, not allowing him to feel ashamed and guilty.

Lakoff’s Conception and the Right to Bear Arms

The opposition of liberals and converts, raising parents, and strict fathers can be seen in gun rights. The right to bear and use weapons has a long history in the United States and has been revised many times. In the course of history, various amendments were made to this rule, the requirements for citizens changed in connection with scandals cases of inadequate and careless handling of weapons. Despite the apparent discussions, the issue of carrying weapons may be one in which both parents, nurturing and strict, can come to a consensus. These parents are very eager to protect their children; they want to teach the child to show fortitude.

Conservatives, that is, a strict father, will do everything possible so that beloved children can gain access to weapons and learn how to use them. Perhaps a strict father is frightened and sees suspicious people or even enemies in everything; therefore, he imposes his defense position (University of California Television, 2008). Any conservative initiatives related to the navy or the army are connected since protection and strength are conservatives’ most critical ethical constructs. The strict father does not want the world to plunge into chaos due to the indiscriminate possession of weapons, but protecting his own from strangers will never come to the fore for him. Showing courage and, most importantly, strength is at the root of the conservative ethical paradigm. Lack of strength, that is, weakness is tantamount to immoral behavior and deserves condemnation or even punishment.

It seems initially that liberals and nurtured parents are unambiguously opposed to possessing guns that can bring havoc to their homes. They protect children from dangerous influences and do not want to associate their lives with cruelty. However, not everyone sees the contradiction between a happy life filled with love and gun ownership. The main thing is different in these relations: the legal possession of weapons and a thorough check of a citizen before buying a gun. The nurtured father does not forget about the world’s dangers and understands, more importantly, that some people can prevent others from making a choice, therefore, infringing on their freedom. A gun as a defense of one’s borders, limits, and freedoms suits the nurtured parent.



Usually, conservatives believe in order and in enforcing this order; otherwise, chaos is inevitable. It would seem that at the center of the personality of a person of conservative views lies the assertion that compliance with all norms will allow them to act righteously. Some conservatives argue that weapons are a historical norm and a given. They take it as a maxim that, under the standard and order, a law-abiding citizen does not kill another person but protects himself and his property, his relatives. Precisely the same as in a situation of general order and following uniform norms. A law-abiding citizen has nothing to be afraid of having a weapon or not having one. If a person does not commit illegal actions, he is not in danger of anything because of the order and social norms.


As already noted, the heart of the conservative ethical paradigm is strength. The possession of weapons is the best demonstration of a person’s strength, courage, and readiness to protect his family and property (Green, 2006). The ethic of power can show itself in practice here, which is why conservatives often defend gun ownership. A strict father protects himself and seeks to teach protection to his children, instilling suspicion and constant caution in them. Lack of strength is interpreted as weakness, baseness, and immorality. These traits are associated with cowardice and betrayal, which must be immediately condemned and punished.


Conservatives’ focus on their interests is due to the need to reach the desired goal through obstacles. A strict father believes that a successful person is “someone who, through self-discipline and the pursuit of self-interest, has become self-reliant” (Lakoff, 1998, p. 9). Purposeful people do not deserve obstacles in their path. They have a plan to get rich and make their lives better. Acting within the law, they improve their lives and the lives of nearby people. After all, a strict father believes that if all children are motivated to work hard towards their goals, the whole family will have a great life, as children will succeed in different purposes. Within the framework of this metaphor, weapons can serve as a means to provide unhindered achievement of their goals.


A strict father honors order, which means respecting the hierarchy and demands the same from his children. Obedience is one of the primary ethical constructs in the conservative model since conservatives postulate the inviolability of ideas, institutions, and individual rules (or individuals). Within the framework of the conservative model, people are allowed to use weapons. Still, each of them must know that for illegal possession and use, as well as for committing criminal acts, he will undoubtedly be punished. Punishment in this structure closely interacts with obedience, as an obedient child accepts punishment from a strict father without a murmur and learns to follow his lessons in the future.



Social empathy is the center of the liberal ethical paradigm, according to which the nurtured parent does not want to deprive his child of the joys since he can quickly put himself in his place. The nurtured parent accepts that his child may differ in values, attitudes, and desires (University of California Television, 2008). Such a parent can see the world through the eyes of a child. Within the framework of this metaphor, the carrying of weapons is unacceptable. Still, a low level of tolerance for weapons is acceptable, provided that they are not used in conflicts between ordinary people.

Social Nurturance

Here nurtured parents postulate a universal involvement in the upbringing of children. They make morality and ethics not a private matter projected onto a small group or one person. In a situation of liberal ethics, the moral issue becomes a social one, and the community is responsible for its members. It is contrary to the position of a strict father, who sees the neighboring community as a threat. At the same time, such a position postulates the need to cooperate with different social groups and reach a consensus on such complex issues as the right to arms. Maybe an exception should be made for some people or some circumstances.

Fair Distribution

The fair distribution of goods in society presupposes equality and availability of products and services. Lack of justice would be considered discrimination within the liberal ethic. If specific segments of the population cannot access certain benefits, they will be regarded as discriminated. People find a contradiction between the central postulates of the liberals and the bearing of weapons: if a society is to be built justly, it cannot have a selection criterion for the sale of arms. Then, according to these criteria, people with disabilities, workers in certain areas, former prisoners, or other social strata can be discriminated.


The nurtured parent wants his children to be happy without causing any harm to others. George Lakoff (1998) states that “Unhappy people are less likely to be empathetic and nurturant, since they will not want others to be happier than they are” (p. 14). It brings up the vital issue of self-confidence and the psychological peace that people who own guns get. Many of them talk about this factor, buying weapons and advocating their use. If people are comfortable psychologically possessing arms, the sale can be allowed on a limited scale and strict conditions. For some people, guns help with paranoia, panic, obsessive thoughts, or persecution.


Thus, despite the apparent differences in ethical paradigms presented through the metaphors of a family and two fathers, conservatives and liberals can find a compromise. This compromise can be found in the arms trade, as liberals, who are generally opposed to any form of suppression of other people’s freedom, may also be in favor of constantly redefining the criteria for people who are entitled to weapons. By believing in order, strength, self-interest, and obedience, conservatives, or strict fathers, can justify and explain in detail the need for weapons. Empathy, social nurturing, justice, and happiness are at the center of liberal values, and even these norms suggest the permissibility of weapons. The question is only in accents because for conservatives, weapons should be allowed or necessary, and for liberals, arms can be allowed under several conditions.


Green, C. (2006). Do not think of an elephant: Know your values [Video]. C-SPAN.Org. Web.

Lakoff, G. (1998). Metaphor, morality, and politics or, why conservatives have left liberals in the dust. Social Research, 62(2).

University of California Television (UCTV). (2008). George Lakoff: Moral politics [Video]. YouTube. Web.

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DemoEssays. "Metaphors of Morality in Politics: The Right to Bear Arms." December 21, 2022.