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International Journal of Applied Philosophy

Volume 13, Issue 2, Fall 1999

Nicholas Dixon
Pages 239-260

Handguns, Violent Crime, and Self-Defense

By far the most plausible explanation of data on violent crime in the United States is that its high handgun ownership rate is a major causal factor. The only realistic way to significantly reduce violent crime in this country is an outright ban on private ownership of handguns. While such a ban would undeniably restrict one particular freedom, it would violate no rights. In particular, the unquestioned right to self-defense does not entail a right to own handguns, because the evidence indicates that the widespread belief in handguns’ defensive efficacy is mistaken, especially when we confine our attention to defensive handgun use that is actually morally permissible. A handgun ban will never eradicate the weapons from this country, but it can substantially reduce the ownership rate and, as a result, substantially reduce violent crime. Although political realities may make a handgun ban unattainable in the United States at present, the very act of advancing cogent arguments for the most defensible position will make the goal of handgun prohibition more and more achievable.

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