The Ethics of Gun Control
The phrase "Gun Control" means different things to different people. One bumper sticker states that "Gun Control means hitting your target." However one defines gun control, the mere mention of it brings controversy. Opposing sides have for years fought over the laws that govern firearms. For the purposes of this paper "Gun Control" is defined as policies enacted by the government that limit the legal rights of gun owners to own, carry, or use firearms, with the intent of reducing gun crimes such as murder, armed robbery, aggravated rape, and the like. So defined, gun control understandably brings favorable responses from some, and angry objections from others. The gun control debate is generally publicized because of the efforts of the Pro-Gun Lobby or the Anti-Gun Lobby.The best known of the Pro-Gun Lobby is the NRA, headed by Charlton Heston and Wayne LaPierre. The Anti-Gun Lobby includes such organizations as Handgun Control, Inc., The Violence Policy Center, and the ACLU, and is commonly associated with such figures as Sarah Brady.
It is doubtful that anyone would dispute that reducing violent crime is a good thing. Most pro-gun lobbyists will concede that guns are used in violent crimes, and that guns act as an enabler for criminals. It is impossible to deny that mass shootings could not be carried out without guns. This fact is generally the basis of the anti-gun movement. They argue that since guns are commonly used in the commission of crimes, and since guns are inherently dangerous because of their primary function (the primary function being the destruction of the target), that guns should therefore be outlawed. The pro-gun lobby counters this by saying that law-abiding citizens using firearms protect themselves from criminals 2.5 million times every year , and that there is a correlation between increased gun ownership and a reduced crime rate .
The arguments of the anti-gun lobby are generally based on
so-called "common-sense" and emotional pleading, with relatively few statistics backing up their claims. They argue that the Second Amendment to the Constitution is only giving the states the right to regulate militia activity and therefore possess and "bear" arms . Some of the more extreme anti-gun lobby advocate repealing the Second Amendment altogether.
Since the most extreme advocates of gun control wish to ban guns regardless of the Constitution, it becomes necessary to not just examine the law of the land, and the courts interpretation, but also the underlying philosophies of both sides of the debate. This is not to say that the issue cannot be argued from a legal standpoint. In the past few years, as class-action lawsuits have become more prevalent, some lawsuits have been brought against gun manufacturers on the grounds that they produce and distribute a dangerous product. In some cases, juries decided for the plaintiffs, and thus set precedent for more anti-gun suits. This hardly sets an actual legal precedent against the legality of guns themselves. In fact, US v. Emerson, a case resolved just last Spring, a federal appeals judge upheld under the Second Amendment the right to own/possess a firearm even for a man who was under a restraining order issued at his estranged wife's request . This
decision overturned a law in Texas that made it illegal for someone with a restraining order to own/possess a gun. This decision was made in part because the judge decided that the Second Amendment indeed said that an individual has the right to "keep and bear arms", not just the state. Any other argument regarding the legal rights of the individual under the Second Amendment seem unnecessary, since the precedent of individual rights has again been upheld.
Without any legal argument to speak of, the debate must now move to a philosophical one. From a deontological perspective, the first question to be posed is, "In regards to...
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