In Defense of Gun Control

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2018-07-02
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
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Nearly half of all privately owned firearms in the world are in American hands. The U.S. homicide rate is 6 times higher than the average of all developed countries, and more than three times higher than any individual country. Half of all homicides are committed with a firearm. Gun advocates claim that the high rate of private gun ownership does not contribute to this; some even argue that murder rates would be lower if only more people carried guns to defend themselves. Pro gun control advocates find the correlation between number of guns and gun violence an obvious one -- and that it should be the starting point for discussion about gun control. Both sides think their cases are strong, and have created a political stalemate. Can the truth of these views be evaluated rationally and dispassionately?

Hugh Lafollette argues the gun control debate is more complex than advocates on either side acknowledge. It requires resolving moral and legal questions about the nature of and limitations on rights, as well as the responsibility of government to protect citizens from risk. It requires assessing claims about the right to bear arms, as well as the right to be secure from harm caused by guns. Empirical findings must be considered--about the role of guns in causing harm, the degree to which private ownership of guns can protect innocent civilians from attacks by criminals, whether the government should be constrained by a well-armed citizenry, and the degree to which laws seriously limiting access to guns can be effectively enforced. Lafollette carefully sorts through all these conceptual, moral, and empirical claims. He concludes that all things considered, the U.S. does need more gun control than we have. He then proposes an indirect strategy for decreasing harm from firearms--requiring all gun owners to have liability insurance (something the NRA actually encourages) similar to that of car owners. Lafollette argues that this approach could reduce gun violence without the problem of government intrusion.

Painstakingly fair and historically informed, the book is mainly designed for use in applied ethics and public policy courses, showcasing how one might approach a difficult topic with care and even-handedness in order to construct a rational argument. In Defense of Gun Control sorts through the conceptual, moral, and empirical claims to fairly assess arguments for and against serious gun control.

Author Biography

Hugh LaFollette is Cole Chair in Ethics at the University of South Florida St Petersburg and the editor-in-chief of the International Encyclopedia of Ethics (Blackwell 2013).

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Understanding the Issues
Chapter 2: Armchair Arguments
Chapter 3: A Framework for Rights
Chapter 4: The Right to Bear Arms
Chapter 5: Looking for Empirical Evidence
Chapter 6: The Empirical Evidence
Chapter 7: Evaluating the Empirical Evidence
Chapter 8: Why We Need Gun Control


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