Firmin DeBrabander, a philosophy teacher at Maryland Institute College of Art, has written a judicious exposition of the crisis of guns in our society. He pays particular attention to the ideology, claims, and consequences of the work of the National Rifle Association. To the question of his title—Do guns make us free?—he issues a firm and persuasive no. Guns do not make us free. Gun culture as it has emerged in U.S. society is antithetical to a democratic society because democracy cannot function in a culture of fear in which freedom of expression is intimidated.
Attention to the NRA means attention to the work of Wayne LaPierre, its chief spokesperson. DeBrabander gives LaPierre a good deal of air time, exhibiting the absurdity and skewed ideological foundations of the NRA.
Because DeBrabander is a philosopher, it is no surprise that his most interesting and important contributions are in the chapters where he looks behind the present shrill discussions to more elemental considerations. In chapter 2 he takes up the thought of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. Hobbes concluded that we live in a “state of nature” that is wild, undisciplined, dangerous, and brutal—a war of all against all. Locke proposed instead that there is and can be a civil society that depends on respect for individual rights and individual property, which are sacrosanct and of ultimate importance.