Incrementalism, Comprehensive Rationality, and the Future of Gun Control

59 Pages Posted: 3 Jun 2008

See all articles by Allen Rostron

Allen Rostron

University of Missouri at Kansas City - School of Law


This article examines the issue of gun control through the lens of the 'comprehensive rationality' and 'incrementalism' models of policymaking and argues that incremental policymaking has been one of the major impediments to progress toward more effective regulation of guns. Gun laws are often an incoherent patch-work of provisions as new restrictions are piled atop old ones in response to particular tragedies or narrow concerns, instead of crafting bills to achieve an optimal approach to the entire problem. Political science and other social sciences literature has closely examined the 'incrementalism' and 'comprehensive rationality' models of policymaking over the past several decades, but legal scholars discuss the models much less frequently. This article describes how political scientists have identified a few exceptional types of policy problems that are particularly unsuited for an incrementalist approach. Incremental policymaking poses a special risk for firearm regulation because of the uniquely prominent role that 'slippery slope' fears play in the opposition to any new measures concerning guns. This article contends that a more comprehensive approach is vital both to achieve more effective policies and to quell gun owners' concerns that moderate gun control measures will eventually lead to gun bans and confiscation. The top policy priority should be expanding background check regulations to form a more complete and coherent system limiting access to guns.

Keywords: Gun control, Guns, Weapons, Gun laws, Firearms, Shootings, Incrementalism, Comprehensive rationality, Policymaking, Second Amendment, Virginia Tech, Columbine, Gun free zone, Background check, National Rifle Association, NRA, Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, Hurricane Katrina

JEL Classification: K10, K14, K20, K23, K42, D72, D73, D74, D78

Suggested Citation

Rostron, Allen K., Incrementalism, Comprehensive Rationality, and the Future of Gun Control. Maryland Law Review, Vol. 67, No. 3, 2008, Available at SSRN:

Allen K. Rostron (Contact Author)

University of Missouri at Kansas City - School of Law ( email )

5100 Rockhill Road
Kansas City, MO 64110-2499
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics