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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

Gun Rights and the Threat to Freedom and Democracy

Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

Firmin DeBrabander, professor of philosophy at the Maryland Institute College of Art, spoke about the importance of gun safety in the United States at the Boisi Center on October 22. Drawing on his recently published book, Do Guns Make Us Free?: Democracy and the Armed Society, DeBrabander addressed the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) claims that the Second Amendment safeguards all other American freedoms.

He argued that the prevalence of guns in American society undermines the freedoms of speech and assembly. For example, DeBrabander asked, what teacher is going to bring up difficult and divisive topics in the classroom if one or more of their students is armed, as many proposed campus carry laws allow? Or if protestors were heavily armed, wouldn’t the police be more likely to clamp down with force, limiting the freedom of assembly? While clear in his rebuttal of the NRA’s platform, DeBrabander sympathized with the legitimate concerns of many gun owners about personal security. He also contended that the root cause of many lower and lower-middle class white rural and suburban Americans’ insecurity is their deeply felt loss of political power due to the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court decision, declining job security and economic stagnation.

Addressing these issues, DeBrabander argued, is critical to reducing the vitriol of the gun rights debate in America and enacting sensible policies that can avert future mass shootings.