[See an update to this post here.]
Yesterday marked the 40th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that declared abortion to be legal in the U.S. It was also the day of the latest school shooting, this one a slightly-less-headline-grabbing version than the last. And as I listened to the usual parade of opinions on abortion (which pretty much haven’t changed at all since Roe), and waited for the NRA’s latest asinine statement on how guns are the solution to all our problems, a thought occurred to me:
Gun-rights advocates and abortion-rights advocates aren’t all that different.
The gun nut is just the abortion nut dressed up as a redneck. The abortion nut is just a gun nut drenched in estrogen. I imagine that thought will offend nearly everyone (WOO-HOO! TRAFFIC!), but before you stomp away angry, let me explain what I mean:
1. Both demand the right to kill people who are inconveniences to them.
This, of course, is the crux of the argument. Both gun rights advocates and abortion rights advocates are convinced that there is an appropriate time to take a human life, and that time is when the existence of that particular human makes their lives harder. For the gun nuts, that time is when the human life in question threatens theirs, or takes their stuff, or trespasses on their property, or threatens their gun rights, or votes for a black guy. For abortion nuts, it’s when it might force them to put their life on hold, or has a debilitating disease, or has the wrong genitalia, or has a loser for a father.
I know that both groups are going to come back with “But they’re criminal scum and don’t deserve to live!” and/or “But they’re pre-human life with no meaningful right to existence!” but both of these miss the point, which is that both philosophies are possessed by the delusional idea that we can somehow kill our way to a better world. The gun advocate thinks that the safest world is the one where citizens can execute criminals without a judge or a jury; the abortion advocate thinks we can end poverty (and child abuse, and a host of other things) by pre-murdering poor and unwanted children.
(Interestingly, both can point to statistics to support their arguments, if they want. Even more interestingly, neither one will accept the other’s statistical arguments. Think about that for a second. I’m just sayin’.)
It’s true that fewer people mourn when a criminal or a fetus dies; there’s certainly no denying that. The question, though, I suppose, is why the death needs to happen at all — or, at the very least, why we as a society should condone it. I imagine most liberals can see the hole in the gun advocate’s argument: there are all sorts of other ways to defend yourself, your family, and your property that don’t involve lethal force. (So many, in fact, that it kind of boggles the mind.) What they’re missing, of course, and what the conservative will gladly point out for them, is that there are just as many ways to deal with the problem of unwanted children that don’t involve killing them. (Again, so many that it would take all day just to list them.)
2. Both rely on rather ambiguous parts of the Constitution to defend their “right.”
I’m not the first to point it out, but gun rights advocates love the second half of the Second Amendment, and are more than happy to ignore the first half. In case you’re fuzzy on your Constitution, let me reproduce it for you here:
A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
They’ll yell till they’re blue in the face about the part about the right to keep and bear arms not being infringed, but their eyes glaze over when you point out that the amendment clearly specifies a single purpose for the right to keep and bear arms, and that purpose has been essentially meaningless for about a century now. There is no militia to speak of, and certainly no well-regulated one. Furthermore, if there was one, it wouldn’t mean much for the security of the free state, seeing as our enemies (and our government) have tanks, nuclear weapons, and a host of other things that laugh in the face of semi-automatic firearms.
Advocates for abortion rights are on even shakier ground here (sorry, liberal friends), relying on a nebulous “right to privacy” that literally appears nowhere in the Constitution. Even the Supreme Court’s majority opinion in Roe v. Wade essentially amounts to, “It’s either in the Ninth Amendment, or the Fourteenth, we’re pretty sure. If you squint, you’ll see it. Promise.”
Do these rights exist? I dunno. Definitely not in the Constitution. But if you really have to ask that question, you’re still missing the point: When does a human being ever have the “right” to kill another?
3. Both ultimately resort to arguments that amount to “If it were illegal, people would do it anyway.”
I think everyone knows what I’m talking about here. Gun nuts like to trot out the old saying that “If you outlaw guns, only outlaws will own guns.” Abortion advocates like to point to statistics that show abortion laws seem to have little to no effect on abortion rates. Again, this is a point where each group is likely to recognize the other’s fallacy (because they come from opposite ends of the political spectrum), but are blind to it when they make it themselves.
The fallacy, of course, rests on the assumption that we as a society pass laws against actions because we think the laws themselves will somehow keep people from engaging in them. I shouldn’t have to point out that this is nonsense, but apparently I do. Laws against murder have never prevented murder. Laws against theft have never prevented theft. They’re on the books so that when murder and theft happen, we can prosecute them.
It’s such an obvious fallacy that it seems idiotic that I should even need to point it out. And yet, it gets repeated every day. Probably because it’s catchy, and because…
4. Both groups are ultimately just merchants of death.
There’s no way around it. If you celebrate gun rights, or abortion rights, you’re ultimately celebrating death. You’re ultimately saying that, in certain circumstances, it’s somehow a “good thing” when a human life is ended. You’re saying that there are beating hearts that can and should be stopped.
The vast majority of people will tell you, if you ask them, that they believe in protecting human life. If you consider yourself one of those people — and odds are you do — I humbly ask you to think long and hard about why you believe in protecting human life, and why you’re against protecting certain human lives. I humbly submit that if you believe strongly in the agenda of the NRA or the pro-choice lobby, you’ve been sold a bill of goods. A bill of goods that exists to sell products and win elections, not to protect life’s sanctity. Furthermore, I’d submit that you’ve been sold the same bill of goods as the other side. Because ultimately, that bill of goods is nothing but death.
The only difference is the marketing demographic.