What would gun rights look like in America if we treated them like abortion rights? That's a question a lot of people have been asking the last few days, and for good reason. Republicans are the primary opponents of gun control laws. They argue that gun ownership is a constitutionally guaranteed right and the government must not restrict that right. Beyond that, things get a little shady. What is the constitutional justification for permitting a free-for-all without restrictions? Nobody's jumping to the podium to say.
Maybe there's a practical reason for that hesitation. Maybe it's because the very same Republicans screaming about unobstructed rights to gun ownership are playing both sides of the fence. They have legislated abortion -- another constitutionally guaranteed right -- into near extinction, and continue to do so with reckless abandon.
What if gun rights were regulated like abortion rights? Here's a list of just some of the hoops you'd have to jump through before you could own a gun:
- Only one store in the entire state would sell guns. (See: Mississippi, Arkansas, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming for states with only one abortion provider.)
- You'd have to fill out an enormous personal background check including intrusive personal information that has nothing to do with your ability to own or use a gun. Then you'd have to wait at least 72 hours and come back to the store. (Remember, it's the only one in the state. You better hope you don't live on the other side of Wyoming.)
- Upon your return, you'd have to sit through intensive mandatory counseling. Your counselor, regardless of his personal beliefs, would have to tell you that gun ownership is actually a bad idea, and that it would negatively effect your mental health to own a gun. (This, despite there being no scientific evidence to support the claim.)
- Next, you'd sit through a gruesome movie showing the actual aftermath of domestic gun crimes. You'd see people with half a head. You'd see dead children in their beds. You'd see the bloody aftermath of a school shooting. You'd be shown statistic after statistic warning you that you'd be contributing to this morally degenerate sanctioning of murder.
- If you lived in Virginia, you'd have to come back (again) for an invasive and uncomfortable fMRI (which costs around $300 out of your pocket) to ensure your honesty in answering all the background check information and your intentions to use your gun responsibly. (This was as close as I could get to the invasive transvaginal procedure included in the recently passed Virginia bill.)
- Oh... and if you were married, your spouse might have to sign off on your gun ownership.
Once you jumped through all these hoops, you could buy a gun. In a week, if you wanted another gun, you'd have to start over at Step 1. No exceptions.
At this point, some might object to the comparison. The ending of fetal life, they will say, is different from the ownership of a gun. Obviously, when guns are used safely for things like target practice or hunting or self-defense, no humans are unjustly killed. Abortion is, in and of itself, an injustice. The thing is, this argument doesn't pass the legal test. Fetuses are not persons under the law, and that's just a fact. They are not entitled to the right to not be aborted. Quite the opposite. Roe v. Wade explicitly and emphatically gives the choice of whether or not to abort to exactly one person -- the pregnant woman. Period. End of story.
Some might continue to object that this isn't strictly a legal test. It's a moral issue of the highest importance. It's about human life, and sometimes, legislators protect human life rather than toe constitutional lines.
It's true, of course. Legislators have made lots of "extra-constitutional" laws and regulations about abortion. That's what we're talking about in the first place. They've worked long and hard to give pharmacists the right to refuse to sell morning-after pills if they don't want to. If this practice were instituted by every pharmacist in a state, it would effectively make it impossible to buy morning-after pills. (What might Republicans say if Democrats circumvented the right to sell or own guns in the name of preserving human life?) Oh, and there's another uncomfortable bit: Elected officials in at least 8 states have sworn not to enforce gun laws passed by the federal government.
It seems that Republicans are determined to have it both ways. Gun ownership is so sacred that it's good to ignore the law to preserve it at all costs. Abortion is so reprehensible that it's good to ignore the law to end it at all costs. The bottom line, of course, is that Republicans are willing to ignore the law in both cases. They have their agenda, and they're going to see it enforced, laws be damned when they disagree. It's really quite terrifying, if you think about it for very long.
(I'm not sure who first articulated this argument, but a listener, "Judi," on the Stephanie Miller Show deserves full credit for inspiring this article.)