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Gun Control

  1. Lester H. Hunt

Published Online: 1 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781444367072.wbiee738

The International Encyclopedia of Ethics

How to Cite

Hunt, L. H. 2013. Gun Control. The International Encyclopedia of Ethics. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 1 FEB 2013


The phrase “gun control” has no very precise meaning. It typically refers either to prohibitions of or restrictions on gun ownership on the part of the civilian population. Such rules may apply either to guns in general or to some type of gun (such as handguns). More rarely, it can refer to legal restrictions, not on classes of weapons, but on classes of users, a sort of restriction that might be called “dangerous possessor gun control” (see Risk). In this case, the state denies the right of gun ownership to some class of the population deemed – perhaps due to youth, mental infirmity, or prior criminal behavior – to be insufficiently trustworthy. Dangerous possessor rules seem to be per se uncontroversial: though there is disagreement about which users are sufficiently untrustworthy, no one seems to deny that there should be some restrictions on who may own these weapons. The philosophical literature that has developed in the past two decades is focused mainly on legal restrictions on guns, and not on users.


  • politics;
  • practical (applied) ethics