Available Now**

"This is the best book to date on issues of gun rights and gun control. While it includes history, statistics, and analysis of those statistics, it is above all a work of careful, sustained, rational argument informed by the facts to the extent that they are known. It is particularly strong in its analyses of the nature of moral rights and of what rights people actually have. This is not another polemical tract of the sort that tends to dominate discussions in the US. In developing and defending his views about issues of ethics, law, and policy, LaFollette is scrupulously fair to the views and arguments of all parties. His is a voice of sanity in this polarized but vitally important debate."

Jeff McMahan
White’s Professor of Moral Philosophy
University of Oxford


"In Defense of Gun Control is an outstanding, short, readable treatise on how an intelligent person might approach the gun control debate. The author, a philosopher, first steps back from the immediate issue and in a serious, thoughtful way provides a framework for thinking about rights, then discusses what the 'right to bear arms' might mean. Similarly, he steps back and discusses the criteria one can use to evaluate the existing empirical evidence on gun issues (or any issue). Given that much is not known, he discusses the importance of 'armchair arguments' (your own understanding of how the world works, from self-reflection, experience, as well as formal and informal education). This is a book that should be read whether you agree with the author's ultimate conclusions, and I would argue, whether or not you are extremely interested in guns or gun control. The book provides a highly useful template for how initial non-experts (all of us on most issues) can thoughtfully approach any public policy question."

David Hemenway
Professor of Health Policy
Director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center
Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health

"No philosopher has contributed more substantially to the literature on gun policy ethics than Hugh LaFollette, as he demonstrates in this outstanding volume.  In Defense of Gun Control features exquisite sensitivity to the implicated empirical issues and a penetrating, fair-minded analysis of the ethical issues, before concluding with an array of moderate gun control proposals—some of them quite novel.  This work will be of interest to scholars, university students, and others who seek a balanced examination of gun rights and gun control in a single continuous discussion."

David DeGrazia
Professor of Philosophy at George Washington University
Senior Research Fellow, National Institutes of Health

 

Preface

I grew up in a gun culture. My father was an avid hunter and an amateur gun collector. He had multiple handguns, rifles, and shotguns. To me that seemed normal. As a teenager, I assumed I would continue that tradition. Hence, when my dad gave me a shotgun for my thirteenth birthday I was ecstatic. My father’s gift meant that he saw me as a man; I could now join him when he went hunting. It is difficult to overstate the satisfaction and self-esteem his gift bestowed.

full preface

publisher's page

** "We are pleased to inform you it is now available from the Oxford University Press Academic website" as of 5/21 (link above).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Preface

I grew up in a gun culture. My father was an avid hunter and an amateur gun collector. He had multiple handguns, rifles, and shotguns. To me that seemed normal. As a teenager, I assumed I would continue that tradition. Hence, when my dad gave me a shotgun for my thirteenth birthday I was ecstatic. My father’s gift meant that he saw me as a man; I could now join him when he went hunting. It is difficult to overstate the satisfaction and self- esteem his gift bestowed.

When I became an adult and moved out on my own, I was no longer enamored of guns; but, then, neither was I an ardent critic of private gun ownership. Although I had thought, both personally and professionally, about a wide range of moral and political issues, gun control was not among them. That changed in the mid-1990s when I spent the academic year at the University of Stirling in Scotland. While exploring housing options for my sabbatical, a disgruntled forty-three-year-old resident of Stirling drove to the elementary school in the neighboring village of Dunblane where he shot and killed sixteen children and one teacher; he wounded many others. When we moved to Stirling three months later, the community was reeling from the massacre. There were few Dunblane residents who had not have been personally affected by this slaughter of the innocents. During our year, we learned details about several families whose children were killed. We sensed the citizens’ confusion, anger, and profound grief when we frequented one of their local pubs. I met and became friendly with the solicitor (attorney) who represented the parents of the children killed in the massacre. Suddenly the issue of gun control was real in a way that it had never been before. My dis-ease at having no settled view of the topic nagged at me for several years before I decided that agnosticism on this topic was neither intellectually tenable nor morally responsible. I was impelled to examine the arguments and the evidence to reach a fair and informed view.

Confronting this issue carefully, thoughtfully, and honestly is not easy in the United States where the public debate about the private ownership of guns is contentious, often nasty, and rarely insightful. I had to make a serious effort to identify the most plausible views for and against gun control. One of the first things I noted was that this way of framing the debate grotesquely oversimplifies it. I explain why and how in chapter 1. I had to read and reread the available literature so that I could understand the armchair, rights-based, and empirical arguments concerning the control of privately owned guns. Only then would I be prepared to assess the evidence and reach an informed—even if tentative—conclusion. Unfortunately, since most philosophers were like me, there was little extant literature. Outside of the public arena—where most arguments are simplistic, and too many are demonstrably unfair, or blatant ad hominems—the bulk of available literature on the topic came from physicians, social scientists, and public health professionals.

Having absorbed that literature, I sought to separate the rhetorical chaff from the substantive argumentative wheat. With any issue that is difficult to do, in part because advocates “on the same side” tend to hold somewhat divergent positions. So I sought to identify not only the variations but also the common beliefs and claims characterizing those who embrace and those who oppose gun control.

The hope for any progress on this topic within our culture requires civil, honest, and fair discussion, not schoolyard namecalling. People who disagree should listen to what opponents say and should be willing to alter their views in the face of compelling evidence. Of course, that is easier said than done. We are all subject to the confirmation bias, the tendency to look for evidence that supports views we already embrace. Overcoming this bias requires diligence and honest self-criticism. We should impartially assess the arguments and evidence. We should recognize and acknowledge the strengths of competing arguments, even if we decide, in the end, that they are not convincing.

This book is my attempt to understand and accurately describe the options, to identify a plausible resolution, and then to vigorously defend that conclusion, to show why I find it superior to the alternatives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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