2 J.L. Econ. & Pol'y 265 (2006)
Self-Defence and Handgun Rights

handle is hein.journals/jecoplcy2 and id is 269 raw text is: 2006]

Lance K. Stell
Law-abiding civilians have a claim against the state, based on liberal
principles of justice, that it not restrict unduly their carrying handguns for
personal defense against bodily attack.' When the state disables civilians'
carrying handguns for personal defense but refuses to acknowledge incur-
ring a special duty of care to protect those it disables, it demotes them from
full citizenship, commits a serious injustice and diminishes the state's le-
In Part I, I clarify the concept of self-defense and distinguish it from
conceptions of self-defense, recognized in positive law, that privilege
committing homicide in limited circumstances. In Part II, I pose the prob-
lem for a liberal theory of justice when the state, putatively founded on lib-
eral, republican principles, (1) legally disables law-abiding individuals from
* Lance K. Stell (M.A., Ph.D. Michigan) is the Charles A. Dana Professor and Director of Medi-
cal Humanities at Davidson College. Dr. Stell regularly teaches Ethics, Philosophy of Law, and Clinical
Ethics. He holds a faculty appointment in the Department of Internal Medicine at Carolinas Medical
Center, a teaching hospital in Charlotte with which Davidson College has formal institutional ties. He
publishes in medical ethics, ethics, and the philosophy of law. Dr. Stell serves as a consultant to hospi-
tals and professional medical associations, and also serves on the Committee on Ethical and Judicial
Affairs of the North Carolina Medical Society and on the Grievance Committee of the 26th Judicial
District of North Carolina.
1 Since Aristotle first elaborated the concept of citizenship, (by which he meant not merely those
who defacto rule the community, but those who have a right legitimately to rule it), the right to possess
and carry arms has been recognized within the republican tradition of political philosophy as partially-
constitutive of full and equal citizenship. See Lance K. Stell, Gun Control and the Regulation of Fun-
damental Rights, CRIMINAL JUSTICE ETHICS, Winter-Spring 2001, at 28-33. For Aristotle, a constitution
is its community's fundamental ethical understanding. It enables identifying how those with standing
in its political life should be identified, namely by telling who are its full and equal citizens, those who
have a right to have rights. In a nutshell, citizens are identified first, by the rights they bear-rights to
participate in political affairs, to hold offices of public trust, to own property in land, to possess and
carry arms. The constitution recognizes who has a right to have these rights. Necessarily, a person
under legal disability with respect to any of these rights implies that he is less than a full-and-equal
citizen. See ARISTOTLE, POLITICS I1.5.1278b in THE BASIC WORKS OF ARISTOTLE, 10-15 (R. McKeon
ed., Random House 1941). Aristotle further argued that those who are full members of the political
community, its citizens, must have arms, and in their own hands too.

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