In Defense of Gun Control

In Defense of Gun Control

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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.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 256 pages
  • 147 x 211 x 15mm | 300g
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 019087337X
  • 9780190873370
  • 1,721,267

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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Review quote

This is the best book to date on issues of gun rights and gun control. While it includes history, statistics, and analysis of the 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. This book should be read whether or not you agree with the author's ultimate conclusions, and I would argue, whether or not you are extremely interested in guns or gun control. It 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, Director, Harvard University Injury Control Research Center * 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 proposalssome 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, George Washington University and co-author of Debating Gun Control * Hugh LaFollette has offered an informative, compelling and readable contribution to the philosophical literature on America's gun debate, which, as of yet, is still relatively small. He gives an overview of three major sets of arguments for and against gun control: armchair arguments, rights based arguments, and empirical arguments. He appraises each in turn, and ultimately points out how and where the gun rights position is wanting, and why the case for gun control
is stronger. He concludes by detailing several proposals for gun control. These include some well-known (and much debated) regulations, like gun registration and background checks on gun purchases, but one idea that is rather novel and little discussed, mandatory liability insurance for gun owners. * Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews * Recommended. * CHOICE * Makes a valuable contribution to the public debate by identifying and destroying inadequate empirical claims popular among gun rights advocates. It is also admirable for its conscientiousness and intellectual humility, for example in explaining the empirical limitations of the public health argument for gun control. It is a model for how this debate should be conducted. * Bioethics *
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About Hugh LaFollette

Hugh LaFollette is currently Cole Chair in Ethics at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. He mainly teaches and writes in ethics, especially practical ethics. He is author of three others books, editor of many more, and Editor-in-Chief of the International Encyclopedia of Ethics. He is currently preparing the second edition of that eleven volume reference work.
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