Abigail A. Kohn doesn't believe there is a "typical" gun owner–but if there is, she's not it. From a liberal Northeastern background, Kohn first stumbled on the gun culture while studying anthropology at Berkeley. She was intrigued enough to devote her Ph.D. thesis to it; the resulting book, Shooters (Oxford University Press), offers a sympathetic perspective on an oft-maligned subculture. In "Straight Shooting on Gun Control" (page 20), Kohn debates three noted experts on how to end the impasse over gun control.

The first of the respondents, attorney and criminologist Don B. Kates, started carrying a gun for a far less academic reason: As a civil rights worker in North Carolina in the early 1960s, he needed it to defend himself and his clients. Kates, who describes himself as a "maverick liberal" and has a parrot named Che (as in Guevara), argues that "the ultimate goal of the anti-gun movement precludes any compromise." His most recent book, co-written with Gary Kleck, is Armed: New Perspectives on Gun Control (Prometheus Books).

Social critic Wendy Kaminer has spent her career defending civil liberties. A passionate supporter of the First Amendment, Kaminer first exercised her Second Amendment rights at a conference for academics sponsored by the National Rifle Association. She says she found firing a weapon to be "a remarkable and sobering experience." In her response to Kohn, she says it's time for gun owners to re-examine the confused politics of the NRA. Kaminer is the author of Free for All: Defending Liberty in America Today (Beacon Press), among many other books.

You're more likely to see Michael I. Krauss riding his motorcycle or cruising in his Corvette than wielding one of his handguns. A professor of law at George Mason University who specializes in tort law and ethics issues, Krauss says he's not a gun "enthusiast," just a passionate supporter of the right to own them. In his contribution to the forum, Krauss argues that Americans have a long way to go before their Second Amendment rights are secured.