The purpose of this essay is to provide a foundation for understanding the "Great American Gun War," and to consider the next steps that could be taken in the search for an effective gun-control policy. We begin with a review of the more-or-less uncontroversial facts about trends in gun ownership and use, and the reasons why Americans are inclined to arm themselves. A discussion follows of the more contentious issues, whether and how guns influence levels or seriousness of crime. We then identify the important values at stake in adopting any gun-control policy, and go on to describe the existing policies and the mechanisms by which they and other such measures have their effect. Finally, we make recommendations about promising next steps.
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