Edited by Tim Hsiao (Grantham University)
|Summary||Philosophical discussions of gun ownership center around the justification, nature, and scope of the right to keep and bear arms. Attention to the empirical literature is especially important, since many arguments both for and against gun ownership are based on their social consequences. Some argue that because guns lead to more harms than benefits, that gun ownership ought to be banned completely or at least heavily restricted. Others argue the opposite: private gun ownership should be allowed because guns lead to more benefits than harms. Still others, following Dworkin's observation that rights are trumps that override appeals to negative utility, argue that rights-based arguments for gun ownership override the force of countervailing empirical considerations.|
|Key works||A right to private gun ownership is typically justified on the basis of self-defense. While this argument is typically situated in the context of criminal aggressors (Wheeler 1997, Hughes & Hunt 2000, Huemer 2003, Hunt 2011, Baker 2014), some pro-gun philosophers have argued that gun ownership can also be justified as a type of self-defense against government tyrrany (Wheeler 1999). Critics of gun ownership fall within a spectrum of views. LaFollette 2000 argues that gun owners should be held strictly liable for any gun-related harms they inflict. DeGrazia 2014a and DeGrazia 2014b argue for "moderate gun control," under which only competent persons who demonstrate a "special need" for gun ownership may be allowed to purchase firearms. Dixon 2011, by contrast, argues for an absolute prohibition of handgun ownership. For responses, see Bernstein et al 2015, Hsiao 2015, and Hsiao and Bernstein 2016.|
|Introductions||Hsiao forthcoming provides a good overview of the moral case for gun ownership. Arguments for gun ownership along self-defense lines include (Wheeler 1997, Hughes & Hunt 2000, Huemer 2003, Hunt 2011, Baker 2014, and Bernstein et al 2015). Wheeler 1999 takes a different approach, arguing that gun ownership is justified as a deterrent against government tyranny.|
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