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Abstract

In the continuing national debate about the scope of the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms,' much conversation revolves around the relationship between private gun ownership and crime rates. Opponents and advocates of gun-control laws support their positions with frequent citation to evidence of a correlation (or lack thereof) between laws that allow individuals to carry and use guns in self-defense and crime rates. The effect of gun laws on crime rates, however, is only one of the implications gun control laws have for our criminal justice system. While crime rates are certainly a valuable metric with which to analyze the effectiveness of gun-control laws, they tell only part of the story. Many of the most important rules in our justice system, such as the presumption of innocence, the reasonable doubt standard, and self-defense protections, are based not on raw empirics but on moral value judgments about the type of error society is willing to risk. A more complete analysis must consider not only the empirical effect of gun laws on crime rates, but also the systematic theoretical implications of self-defense rules-of which gun laws are a significant part-on error risk in the justice system.

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