The topics of gun rights and gun control are some of the most vociferous in the country today, but controversy does little to deter philosophers: in this episode, John and Ken weigh in on the ethics of gun control. Ken asks how widespread ownership of killing machines advances the public good. John answers with the text of the Second Amendment: the right to bear arms is necessary to the preservation of a free state. Beyond that, John argues that the right to bear arms is part of the right one has to self-defense—a right Ken acknowledges exists. But Ken argues—like John Locke—that a citizen in a social contract places the right and responsibility of self-defense in the hands of the state.
To better understand the history gun laws in the United States, John and Ken hand things off to Shuka Kalantari, who files the weeks Roving Philosophical Report (see below). After Shuka files the Report, John and Ken welcome guest Hugh Lafollette onto the show. Professor Lafollette tells the hosts how they have to consider the lack of empirical evidence and intense political debates before they move on to the philosophical issues at hand.
The three take a short break, and talk about what right a citizen might have to own a gun. Ken says there are three ways of thinking: you can argue (like Ken), that citizens have no rights to own guns, that citizens have a fundamental right to own guns, or that citizens have a derived right to own guns (which means that the owning guns is a way to protect one’s fundamental rights). Professor Lafollette argues that the right to bear arms is a derived right—either from a citizen’s right to freedom or to self-defense. After another break, the guests start talking about gun rights in American history, and then welcome caller questions from the radio audience, who ask questions about the feasibility of gun control and the role of gun manufactures in the gun control debate. The three then spend the final segment discussing what a completely rational—but perhaps impossible—system of gun control look like in a society.
Roving Philosophical Report (seek to 6:43): Shuka Kalantari looks into the actual history of the Wild West—where gun laws were, in reality, surprisingly strict. She also talks to historians to learn about how gun ownership was used to enforce the institution of slavery, how the Ku Klux Klan used guns in their campaign of racial terror, and how the Black Panthers used guns in their self-defense campaigns in the 70s.
Sixty-Second Philosopher (seek to 3:49): Ian Sholes talks about how Americans are even more stupid than usual when it comes to debates about guns—he presages that we’re heading towards a world where toddlers are all armed to the teeth (erm, gums?) and drivers fire their rifles instead of honking their horns.