Defense with dignity: how the dignity of violent resistance informs the Gun Rights Debate

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Perhaps the biggest disconnect between philosophers and non-philosophers on the question of gun rights is over the relevance of arms to our dignitary interests. This essay attempts to address this gap by arguing that we have a strong prima facie moral right to resist with dignity and that violence is sometimes our most or only dignified method of resistance. Thus, we have a strong prima facie right to guns when they are necessary often enough for effective dignified resistance. This approach is distinctively non-libertarian: it doesn’t justify gun rights on the basis of (mere) liberty or security. Nonetheless it is compatible with libertarian defenses of gun rights based on a liberty right to guns, and, if sound, in fact lowers the bar for gun rights in some ways, as it justifies access to guns even when nonviolent means would better achieve the liberty or security aims of potential victims. And although this defense of gun rights is most readily categorized as “conservative” or rightist, it relies upon principles and intuitions about dignity popular among progressives in other domains, such as in disability, women’s, or LGBT rights debates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3653-3670
Number of pages18
JournalPhilosophical Studies
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature B.V.


  • Dignity
  • Gun control
  • Gun rights
  • Nonviolence
  • Passive resistance
  • Self-defense


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