Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Puzzle for "Pro-lifers"

Something occurred to me the other night when I should have been in bed.

The stereotypical Republican is anti-abortion but endorses the NRA's interpretation the 2nd Amendment, according to which any infringement on an individual's right to bear arms is unconstitutional. Why does this seem problematic to people like me? Well, how pro-life can you be when you're against any moderate measures to stem gun violence, and in particular the mass murder of children like we saw in Newtown? When I say "moderate measures," I mean universal background checks, a limit on magazine capacity, a ban on weapons that fire rounds at a certain especially lethal velocity, and increased funding for mental health. I don't want to take away all the guns, because our need to protect ourselves must be balanced against the right to bear arms, which is an important right.

The answer, it seems to me, is "not very pro-life." Anti-abortion activists are willing to allow abortions only in very few cases, and some of them aren't willing to allow any abortions at all. Now, if we assume that there is a conflict in the case of abortion between the right to bodily integrity and the right to life, the right to bodily integrity is usually or always overridden by the pro-lifer for fear that a person who can exercise it will abort a fetus and take a life. Analogously, however, if we assume that there is a conflict between the right to bear arms and the right to life, shouldn't the right to bear arms also be overridden usually or always, for fear that a person who can exercise it will kill a child and take a life?

Some people argue that there is no conflict here, because the best way to stem gun violence is to arm as many "good guys" as possible. There is surely a kernel of truth in this. (Though you have to wonder how effective the good guy can be when the bad guy is wearing body armor.) Notice, however, that the moderate measures I advocate would not deprive the good guys of their firearms. Well, not all of their firearms, anyway. What it would do is cut into the profits of corporations that are making a killing off of their killing machines. And that's what's really behind Congress's inability to act in the wake of Newtown. The corporations are running the show. Fortunately for you, pro-life gun lover, your interests and the interests of the corporations making your firearms just happen to agree. But for how long, I wonder?

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