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Does “Pro-Life” mean “Anti-Gun”?

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.

(Image: Logan Weaver/Unsplash.com)

“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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About David G. Bonagura, Jr. 27 Articles
David G. Bonagura, Jr. is an adjunct professor at St. Joseph’s Seminary, New York. He is the author of Steadfast in Faith: Catholicism and the Challenges of Secularism. and Staying with the Catholic Church: Trusting God's Plan of Salvation.

19 Comments

  1. Tammy Duckworth better look closely at the Chicago murder rate. Chicago has some of the strictest gun laws in the United States, yet the murders continue to increase. Law enforcement has been vilified and the police are retiring early while the recruits to replace at an all time low. Shooters are released by Kim Foxx like a revolving door. Abortion is embraced by Democrat political leadership, not in office for 40 yrs straight in Chicago (voter fraud was invented here). Violence is glorified on the media sites, rap music and television. The families and churches are under attack and disintegrating in our poorest communities. The Cook County prison system is how the mentally ill are dealt with and children that were locked out of schools were put at risk more from violence than Covid. The losses are horrific. Drugs are sold on streets with increasing boldness. Although Mayor Lightfoot tries to blame the State of Indiana for not having strict gun laws for all the gang crimes in Chicago her narrative falls apart if the data is actually analyzed. The entire state of Indiana has a murder rate by guns almost equal to CHICAGO alone! We live in the Culture of Death and citizens are becoming numb to the hatred, divisiveness, abominations, and evil that rule its streets and elite politicians.

  2. Most of the anti-gun crowd comes from wealth and privilege of long standing, nice neighborhoods, well patrolled by police, home security systems, safe shopping areas, and in law-maker cases, often paid security details/staffs.

    They pay others to carry guns for them.

    Most folk have none of the above and know the police will only get there in time to put up yellow tape.

    Most folk are not capable of fighting off a larger and stronger attacker, and folk knew since the time of Sam Colt that a repeating handgun was the great equalizer where a smaller, weaker man or woman stood a fighting chance.

  3. Why is it acceptable to kill a child eight months after conception but not ninety-eight months after conception? It’s only a very late abortion. Sick, right?

  4. When I was a kid, 70 years ago, “carrying concealed a deadly weapon” was a felony in my town — a big city.
    Today, every housewife is toting. But, OK so what? It’s a lot more dangerous world than we thought it was in the 1950s. So I’m OK with that, I guess. Hunting rifles? Not my cup of tea. But I’m not a country boy. So I guess I’m OK with that, too.
    But assault rifles? AK-whatevers? Kalaschnikovs? Hundreds of rounds of high-power ammunition? For crying out loud!
    What next? A personal “constitutional right” to port a tactical nuclear weapon?
    The burden of proof of purpose/need should be on those who purchase these high-powered weapons. Hmm..Need an assault rifle to shoot rabbits? An AK-whatever to fend off assailants? Sorry, no “answers” to those questions pass this man’s “pro-life test”.

    • Robert Miller: Who are you to tell me what are my self-defense “needs”? So you think that someone must ‘prove’ their need for a modern sporting rifle? Since when does one have to prove ‘need’ to exercise one’s US Constitutionally protected rights? Recall that the Second Amendment to the US Constitution is not about hunting or sport shooting.
      To see why many of us are so opposed to such restrictions, one only has to look at New York. They passed the Sullivan Act in 1911 that required licenses to own a pistol. Look how far they have perverted that in the last 111 years.
      Perversion to the point where, in some jurisdictions such as NYC for one, it is extremely difficult, and expensive, to obtain government permission to own a firearm. Not if you’re Barbara Streisand, wealthy political donor, or the like, of course.
      That is the ‘slippery slope’ on which you begin to descend when you start with your licensing and permitting schemes.
      Recall that many prominent Politicians (Beto O’Rourke for one) advocate confiscation and severe penalties for failure to comply.
      Yes, they want to disarm us and banning modern sporting rifles is a start…

        • How about the mayhem and violence, the death and destruction, of the 2020 “Summer of Love” riots? With leftist DAs, politicians, and the MSM pretty much siding with, or capitulating to the mobs. VP Kamala Harris was active in arraigning bail for the SOL rioters.

  5. Bonagura sure enjoys his beliefs. He argues that pro-life and pro-gun are compatible, but that pro-choice and anti-gun are not. That’s an ambitious thesis!

  6. Are these people promoting gun control going to give up their security detail. Of cousre not, they are special!!!!!

  7. Speaking from the distance, the United States obssession with guns looks utterly insane. OK, there is plenty of reasoning from both sides. So try and find a reasonable middle point. Start by increasing the minimum permit age to 21. But please, do something.

  8. Good article. One minor nit – putting hunting in the category of sport. Many (if not most) hunters do so to put food on the table, not for “sport”. Could they just go to the store for meat? Some cannot, either for financial or health reasons.

    In fact, one could argue that eating animals that have been allowed to live natural lives, rather than being incarcerated and drugged, is more respectful of God’s creation than going to the supermarket for plastic wrapped meat.

  9. Abortion is always killing an individual person.
    Owning (or possessing) an inanimate gun most often does not even imply bad intent, let alone result in an evil act. Besides, guns often sit dormant for years if not decades in closets and gun safes. However these truisms miss the point.
    Pro lifers value children the most and seek to rear youth in a virtuous and loving intact family, the least likely domicile to turn towards any violence with any weapon.
    The opposite is true of pro abortionists. These screeching accusers are yelling at the wrong folks. (Hold up a mirror!) For it has been the regressive radicals who have bred these murderous rampages. It is they who have employed the wrecking ball to all that is spiritually, emotionally, and physically healthy for children in government schools, the courtrooms, the public square, and main media, to name a few. We cannot allow them to change the channel on those truths.

  10. What the Left fails to acknowledge is that the violence of the Uvalde tragedy is no different than the violence of abortion – they both have the same result. Sorry to be so graphic, but using a machete is more like the violence of abortion – which the Left fully supports. So, they can make their political propaganda-motivated “laws” until they’re blue in the face, it will NOT stop human violence. The Left refuses to address human violence, they simply blame inanimate objects to push their propaganda. Their fascist use of “gun laws” are nothing more than propaganda for their agenda. When they TRULY value human life, they will regulate abortion instead.

  11. I just saw a report on TV on how Australia handled a mass shooting 26 years ago. Their Conservative prime minister allowed for what are truly considered hunting rifles, but not firearms that have rapid shooting. He also instated a 28 day background check. The result, the true hunters said they’ve had no problem owning hunting guns. In 26 years, Australia has had 1 mass shooting. In that time, US has had over 100. I loved the line where the conservative prime minister was asked about the right to own any kind of firearm you want. He replied, is that right higher than the right for a child to live and feel safe? ‘Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’. Please note our forefathers put the word “Life” before “Liberty” or the “Pursuit of Happiness”. My son in law is a hunter. He said no hunter uses AK rifles.

  12. When discussing gun laws I am reminded of the words of Benjamin Franklin: “I can guarantee your freedom or I can guarantee your safety, gut not both.” Gun laws require the loss of freedom, of which the biggest is loss of one’s ability of self-defense. Our society is being destroyed by a godless secular society in which violence is escalating. Gun laws will not stop this onslaught, only conversion of heart and a return to God will prevent the self-destruction of our society.

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