Firmin DeBrabander - Do Guns Make Us Free?
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Author and MICA Professor Firmin DeBrabander will be discussing his latest book, Do Guns Make Us Free? About the book: “This book makes a very simple point very well: guns make us less free. Therefore, the fewer guns, the more freedom. DeBrabander gives an eminently sane and rational argument against the armed society that the United States has become and allows us to imagine how we might escape it and recover the true life of democracy.”—Simon Critchley, The New School for Social Research Do Guns Make Us Free? Book Shows that Rather than Securing Our Freedom, Guns Make America Less Free In the wake of the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre in Connecticut, in which 20 young children were killed by a single shooter, many expected a broad strengthening of gun control laws and a reconsideration of America’s gun culture. Yet the gun rights movement, headed by the National Rifle Association, has gained ground in its fight against gun control laws. No substantive changes have been made to federal gun laws, and in many states, it has become easier to buy guns and to carry them in public since the tragedy at Sandy Hook. Gun rights advocates argue with fervor that firearms are essential to maintaining freedom in America, providing citizens with a defense against government tyranny and thus safeguarding all other rights. This argument that the right to own guns is a foundational component of American freedom has resonated widely and has successfully blocked gun control efforts. Equating guns with freedom is an argument that works because Americans almost always choose more freedom over less. But is this argument valid? In Do Guns Make Us Free?, moral philosopher Firmin DeBrabander puts this claim under the microscope, examining the ways the proliferation of guns impacts freedom. He finds that a heavily armed citizenry concretely diminishes core freedoms for all of us. Freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and other pillars of American democracy are threatened by widespread and poorly regulated weapons. Children, for example, are less free when they must attend schools with armed security guards, metal detectors, and backpack checks. We are all less free when the places we gather—movie theatres, college campuses, supermarkets—can easily become sites for gun violence, and when video surveillance seems necessary to preserve safety in our places of business and on our street corners. We are less free to speak our minds when we know the person we disagree with might be carrying a concealed weapon, as is legal in 50 states. We are less free from fear and intimidation when citizens can carry visible deadly weapons in our public spaces. And when Stand Your Ground laws in thirty states give an armed citizen the legal right to kill anyone he perceives as an immediate danger, we must be vigilant about the ways we present ourselves in public. Guns are a key element of the American cultural imagination. Our revolutionary minutemen and our cowboys were private gun owners. Our movies are packed with gun toting heroes defending America against those who wish to limit our freedom. Do Guns Make Us Free? acknowledges the place of guns in American identity while making a clear case that the proliferation of unregulated weapons does not enhance freedom in a twenty-first century democracy. Most Americans of both parties believe in reasonable controls on the purchase, ownership, and use of firearms. The percentage of households choosing to own a gun has declined, even as the number of weapons in circulation has increased. But faced with the NRA’s passionate argument that controlling guns equals taking away freedom, citizens who support gun control have lacked a passionate response. By exposing contradictions in the freedom argument presented by gun rights supporters, this provocative book shows how a heavily armed society ultimately makes us a less free nation. A philosophical examination of one of the most contentious and emotionally charged public policy debates of our time, Do Guns Make Us Free? is essential reading for everyone concerned about American democracy. About the author: Firmin DeBrabander, an associate professor of philosophy at Maryland Institute College of Art, has written social and political commentary for numerous publications, including the Baltimore Sun, Counterpunch, and the New York Times. He lives in Baltimore, MD.