Volume 17, Issue 2, Fall 2017
Guns as Lies
A Kantian Criticism of the Supposed Right to Bear Arms
Using Kant’s argument that lies are evil and reprehensible in themselves regardless of the benefits that may result, I show that guns can be understood in similar terms. In a unique reading of Kant’s radical and often ridiculed ideas, I maintain that lies have this status because of the way they pervert our relationship to the truth and thus to morality and reason. Lies turn truth and reason into mere means to be used rather than to be obeyed. Kant believes that the result is arrogance, insincerity, and self-deception in the form of moral impurity and depravity. This gives way to the morally bankrupt logics of the passions for honor, dominance, and possession. I argue that this destruction of virtue and of our relation to the moral law can be found in our relation to guns. Guns are not just killing machines; they are deception machines. It is for that reason, regardless of the costs and benefits, that the Kantian should deny that we have any right to them.