Almost everyone agrees that gun ownership is part of the complex fabric of values and traditions that comprise American society. All sides in the gun ownership debate understand that firearms are embedded deeply in America’s society and culture. But whereas for some the right to own guns is a non-negotiable promise guaranteed constitutionally, for others it is far more an element of the American experience than is desirable. This essay examines three arguments which have not usually received full treatment in analytical debates, but which may help us to reframe the sharp polarization that now characterizes the discourse. The first relies on distinctively American ideals of liberty, property rights, and the right of protection from the state. The second considers the implications of American liberty and property across contemporary culture. The final argument captures a somewhat more obscure aspiration in American life: the freedom which can be enjoyed only when society has achieved the public good of safety from deadly firearms.
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