Loyola University Maryland

Graduate Program in Liberal Studies

Liberal Studies Blog

The Right to Bear Arms

Guns and gun control are undeniably hotly contested topics today. Yet even before the United States was founded, debates about the ethical implications of gunpowder weapons had been raging for centuries.

In fact in the early 1600s, Emperor Maximilian I outlawed handguns shortly after they were invented because he believed that they promoted duplicity and posed a security risk to the empire. Not surprisingly, middle-class citizens of the Holy Roman Empire had a lot to say about his ban. But that was only the beginning.

Two guns

Since those initial debates all sorts of Europeans, from priests and theologians to military commanders, journalists, and writers of fiction and poetry have found themselves wrestling with the social and ethical implications of guns, especially handguns, both on the battlefield and in the streets of their country.

Today is not that different here in America. In the twenty-first century United States, where the debate surrounding guns and a citizen’s right to possess and own guns rages on, the question of who can have which guns and for what purpose has found itself at the center of political and cultural discourse. When those weapons are used to violent ends—as they are every day in the U.S.—policy wonks and gun-lobbyists alike fire up rhetoric to press their positions. The arguments that they use are neither new, nor unique to our country. In fact, they are exactly 400 years old.

An old knife

This discussion continues at our fall workshop: The Right to Bear Arms. Hosted by Patrick Brugh, PhD, the launching point of this three day workshop begins with the dawn of firearms. Learn more and register here.

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