Philosophy Colloquium: Guns and Freedom

Posted on 10/17/2016 3:04:01 PM

The Philosophy Department is pleased to announce that Hans Pedersen (IUP) will give a talk titled “Guns and Freedom” on Friday, October 21, at 3:30 p.m. in the Humanities and Social Sciences Building, room 206.


This paper is an attempt to develop a charitable understanding of the importance of gun ownership. Particularly, I am going to focus on the oft-mentioned connection between guns and freedom.

Supporters of gun rights frequently claim that an important reason to own guns and to keep access to guns fairly open is that guns protect and enhance freedom. Recently, Firmin DeBrabander has explored this connection between guns and freedom from a philosophical perspective in his Do Guns Make Us Free?

There is much to admire about DeBrabander’s work. However, DeBrabander fails to provide any clear, precise definition of freedom, and I think he is overly dismissive of the possible contributions of guns to a certain sort of freedom.

Here, I will suggest that we think of political freedom along the lines of Phillip Pettit’s concept of freedom as non-domination. When we start with this definition of freedom, we will see that there are legitimate ways in which guns can contribute to freedom. This is not to say that I will argue for extremely lax gun regulation. Instead, I think that once we acknowledge and clarify the legitimate role that guns can play in enhancing freedom, we will be better situated to come up with philosophically principled limits on gun ownership.