International Journal of Applied Philosophy

Volume 28, Issue 2, Fall 2014

Deane-Peter Baker
Pages 235-249

Gun Bans, Risk, and Self-Defense

While there are no serious arguments in favor of there being no state control whatsoever over the private ownership and employment of firearms, there are significant arguments on the other extreme of the ‘gun control debate’ which contend for bans on the private ownership of firearms or some subset thereof. In this paper I argue that gun ban proponents like Jeff McMahan and Nicholas Dixon confuse the risk or likelihood of being confronted by an attacker intent on serious or lethal harm with the right to defend oneself when faced by such an attacker. When this distinction is properly understood it becomes clear that arguments for the banning of all privately owned guns, or particular classes of guns, cannot stand so long as the firearms in question can be reasonably considered to be an effective means for individuals to defend themselves against attackers intent on serious or lethal harm.