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Graduate and Undergraduate Faculty Expert Ponders, 'Do Guns Make Us Free?'

(left to right) Humanistic Studies Department faculty member and author Firmin DeBrabander’s book, "Do Guns Make Us Free? Democracy and the Armed Society;" and DeBrabander.

Faculty member Firmin DeBrabander sought after for social and political commentary

Posted 09.01.15 by MICA Communications

"Imagine someone walking into a class and putting down his Plato book, his cup of coffee, and his gun," said faculty member Firmin DeBrabander, PhD, who is known for his fearless writing on controversial topics pertinent to global society.

READ: We Can't Advance the Goals of Black Lives Matter without Addressing Gun Control, The Washington Post

DeBrabander has seen global society firsthand. He has lived in Ireland and Belgium, in addition to New England and the Southern United States. "[Belgium] was great," DeBrabander exclaimed. "There are no guns there and no tuition!" It was only when he returned from Belgium and began teaching in Baltimore City, that he was jolted into action. "I would read news releases about gunshot victims. The disparity of violence is troubling and offensive, and has always upset me about Baltimore."

From 2009 until 2012, DeBrabander served as chair of the Humanistic Studies Department, where he still teaches. He also teaches for the M.A. in Critical Studies program. Additionally, DeBrabander has organized several memorable symposia in honor of Constitution Day, with notable speakers including Angela Davis, Ralph Nader, Jesse Jackson and Cornel West.

"MICA students are especially politically tuned and interested. They are more willing to ruffle feathers and are courageous," he explained. "My goal as an educator is to produce active and concerned citizens who will work to try to resolve lingering issues, and to develop in them critical thinking skills so that they are able to perceive the problems
in society."

LISTEN: Guns in Society: Gun Control, Self Defense, and Civil Rights, The Marc Steiner Show

DeBrabander uses his platform widely, publishing to journals such as History of Philosophy Quarterly and International Philosophy Quarterly. Among his opinion pieces are Two Years After Sandy Hook, Schools Aren't Safer in the Baltimore Sun and The Freedom of an Armed Society in The New York Times. In 2013, DeBrabander gave a TED talk at Morgan State University in Baltimore on the intellectual and political impact of guns in the classroom.

He has also written social and political commentary for various publications, including The Atlantic and Inside Higher Ed. His recent book, Do Guns Make Us Free? Democracy and the Armed Society, published by the Yale University Press, looks at the controversial topic of gun ownership politics. In the book, DeBrabander examines claims offered in favor of unchecked gun ownership.

"The problem is that there is a gun culture. Guns are everywhere in open spaces, and there is this pervasiveness of guns and gun violence," he said. But what do guns mean for free speech? "Guns undermine the First Amendment. Guns dampen speech. The gun culture undermines democracy and spells suspicion. How can you trust anyone?"

READ: How Gun Rights Harm the Rule of Law, The Atlantic

DeBrabander's next project tackles the topic of surveillance in society paired with the lack of public spaces.

DeBrabander said, "How are we changing in a society that oppresses? There are oppressive elements to spying. People behave differently when they're being watched. My argument is that everybody happily dives into this technology just for convenience. But who's watching? Who knows? Who cares?"

DeBrabander studied philosophy at Boston College and the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium, and received his PhD from Emory University in Atlanta.

Top image caption: (left to right) Humanistic Studies Department faculty member and author Firmin DeBrabander and his book, Do Guns Make Us Free? Democracy and the Armed Society.