The ethics of restrictive licensing for handguns: comparing the United States and Canadian approaches to handgun regulation

J Law Med Ethics. 2007 Winter;35(4):668-78, 513. doi: 10.1111/j.1748-720X.2007.00189.x.


The United States and Canada regulate firearms, particularly handguns, quite differently. With only a few state and local exceptions, the U.S. approach emphasizes the ability of most individuals to purchase, possess, and carry handguns. By comparison, Canada has a form of restrictive licensing for handguns that places a premium on community safety. The authors first review the potential individual and community level harms and benefits associated with these differing fre-arm policies. Using this information, they explore the ethical dimensions of the U.S. and Canadian approaches through three major themes of autonomy, prevention of harms, and social justice. The authors conclude that the Canadian approach is consistent with respect for the autonomy of persons, fosters the prevention of harms, and more appropriately furthers social justice.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Canada
  • Firearms* / ethics
  • Firearms* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Health Policy / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Humans
  • Licensure* / ethics
  • Licensure* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Social Justice / ethics*
  • Social Justice / legislation & jurisprudence
  • United States