“Let’s be clear,” tweeted Senator Tammy Duckworth days after the horrific shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, “you are not ‘pro-life’ if you choose to do absolutely nothing to save children from gun violence.” Governor Gavin Newsom struck from the other direction: “The Republican Party is obsessed with forcing women to give birth but doesn’t care if our children are gunned down in school.”
If we put the rhetoric and cheap political shots aside, can we analyze this question soberly: Does being “pro-life” require a person to be “anti-gun”?
First, let’s define terms. To be “pro-life” is to support, through legal protection, the right to life that extends from our conception. The pro-lifer, therefore, opposes abortion, which deliberately extinguishes life in the womb. The pro-life movement opposes all laws, from the womb to the end of life, that authorize citizens to kill citizens.
The purpose of a firearm is to strike and damage a target. When the target is another person, the damage done can be fatal. At first glance, then, it would seem that being “pro-life” requires a person to be “anti-gun” since guns can take lives. But this reasoning is faulty.
Law-abiding Americans do not purchase firearms to take lives – and certainly not “to abort young lives,” as Whoopi Goldberg gallingly declared on The View. They purchase them for two purposes: sport and self-defense. The former involves shooting ranges and hunting game. Both are morally licit activities, regardless of how we may feel about them.
Self-defense aims to repel a potential aggressor, and it takes multiple forms, from door locks to alarms to security cameras. One additional means of protecting life is to keep aggressors at bay with the threat of harm, even deadly harm. Self-preservation is human instinct, and to do so by means of firearms is a legitimate exercise of this instinct. Hence private gun ownership is sanctioned by the Second Amendment of the Constitution, for the government exists to protect what is natural to human beings.
Since firearms are not the sole means of protecting human life, it would be a leap too far to declare gun ownership “pro-life”. Yet to own a gun or to assert the right of others to do so is not “anti-life” or contrary to the pro-life position. Firearms rightly possessed protect human life. Their misuse by criminals does not negate their use, even if their misuse leads to tragic loss of innocent life.
Because of the potential destruction that firearm misuse can cause, it is reasonable that the government regulate them in some way, as it does with automobiles, alcohol, and drugs. These regulations are designed to protect lives from harm.
It is significant that the government regulates automobiles, alcohol, and drugs according to a minimum standard: it declares only who is ineligible to use them, and this list is astonishingly short. Driver’s licenses, deemed a privilege and not a right, are not given to minors and to those who cannot physically operate a car. Purchasing alcohol is illegal only for minors. Prescription drugs are available only for those who have received a prescription from a licensed physician. Illegal drugs are precisely that because they are not natural to a person, as self-defense is, nor do they provide any health benefit.
So human beings, while given user guidelines such as traffic laws and warning labels, have tremendous latitude to use these things as they wish, despite their power to kill. The government is not “anti-life” because it does not ban automobiles, alcohol, and prescription drugs even though they regularly serve as instruments of death. Rather, we and the government alike rely on personal virtue and self-discipline to ensure these potentially dangerous things are used well. Government can punish misuse – homicide, DWI accidents, speeding that kills innocent bystanders, doctors prescribing drugs inappropriately – but it cannot prevent it.
This is why the pro-life movement has focused not only on stripping abortion’s legal sanctioning, but also on building what it calls a culture of life through education and through support for families, adoption services, and care for women in crisis pregnancies. This last includes providing and financing homes for women in abusive relationships, an expensive and creative effort at providing self-defense for those who cannot defend themselves.
So, calumnies aside, there is no contradiction between being pro-life and supporting gun rights. “Pro-life” does not mean “anti-gun.”
There is, however, a serious contradiction in arguing for abortion rights and against gun rights. “Bans off our bodies” – but ban protection of our bodies. “My body, my choice” – but the choice is to kill unborn children every bit as innocent as the ones killed in school. “Reproductive freedom” – but no tools to protect freedom. “Women’s rights” – but women cannot have the right to self-defense.
Then there’s the abortion-supporting, NARAL-backed Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), who was so worked up cursing out Senator Ted Cruz that he missed the glaring contradiction in his storm of self-righteousness: “You care about a fetus but you will let our children get slaughtered.”
Gun supporters need not feel guilty – guns in themselves do not cause the deaths of innocents. By contrast, if abortion supporters ever start to feel guilt for supporting the deaths of innocents, then America can begin to take steps toward a society where young people can grow in peace.
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