abortion and guns

The litany set forth above has shown up in my Facebook feed oh, three or four times now, at least; if you have friends on Facebook or Twitter or even Pinterest who are socially liberal on both guns and abortion, you probably have seen it too. More than anything, it’s the sheer question-begging dishonesty of the thing that offends me. It would be difficult to list all the ways this is misleading and deceptive, but let’s cover eight of the big ones, and hopefully save all of us the labor of having to type this out every time this thing pops up, Whac-a-Mole style, on social media.

1. To start with, when a gun purchase is complete, nobody has died. This is not true with an abortion, which in all cases ends a human life. The overwhelming majority of gun purchases never result in a human being dying or being injured. CDC statistics claim about 1.5 million U.S. gun deaths since 1968, including homicides, suicides, and accidents. That’s a big number, even over 47 years in a country of 300 million people. But there are 300 million guns in the United States. Do the math: even if every single gun death was the result of a different gun, that’s less than half of 1% of all guns. By contrast, the number of abortions in the U.S. is more than 57 million since 1973.

2. There’s a reference here to “parental permission.” No woman over 18 is required to get this for an abortion. Whereas, federal law prohibits selling a handgun to anyone under 18, ever, and federally licensed gun dealers may not sell a handgun to anyone under 21 or a long gun to anyone under 18. So the abortion laws are considerably more liberal with regard to minors than the gun laws in this regard.

3. Waiting periods for both gun purchases and abortions vary by state. Here in New York, you need a license to buy a gun, and that can take up to six months (while there is no waiting period for abortions). In DC, it can take years, and a federal judge has found that the permit process was being used to completely deny gun ownership. In Indiana, backlogs in issuing permits have dragged the average time to almost twice the legal 60-day limit. In New Jersey, interminable delays have been chronic, including the sensational case early this year of a 39-year-old woman murdered by her ex-boyfriend after waiting two months for the permit she sought for her own protection to be processed.

4. Speaking of which, there’s an embedded assumption here that only men buy guns. In fact, one study showed the number of female gun owners increased 77% from 2005 to 2011, with almost a quarter of all U.S. women owning a gun. A 2014 study showed that nearly half of all first-time gun buyers are women. As the New York Times detailed in 2013:

[A]t firing ranges across the country, a growing number of women are learning to use firearms and honing their skills.

Women’s participation in shooting sports has surged over the last decade, increasing by 51.5 percent for target shooting from 2001 to 2011, to just over 5 million women, and by 41.8 percent for hunting, according to the National Sporting Goods Association.

Gun sales to women have risen in concert. In a survey last year by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, 73 percent of gun dealers said the number of female customers had gone up in 2011, as had a majority of retailers surveyed in the two previous years.

Manufacturers have increasingly geared advertising toward women, marketing special firearms models with smaller frames, custom colors (pink is a favorite), and accessories like the “concealed carry” “salmon kiss” leather handbag offered by Cobra Firearms or the leopard shooting gloves and Bullet Rosette jewelry sold by Sweet Shot (“Look cute while you shoot!” is the company’s motto).

Women’s shooting clubs have also proliferated — not just in small towns like Painesville, but also in Atlanta, Houston, even Manhattan, where a women’s gun club meets regularly at a firing range in Chelsea, a neighborhood better known for art galleries.

5. You must be licensed by the federal government to sell guns for a living, a requirement that covers basically everyone who sells more than a non-trivial number of guns. There are no unlicensed gun dealers, at least none the law allows. By contrast, no abortion clinic is required to receive a federal license to perform abortions; all licensing and inspection is left to individual states, some of which have very little interest in doing so.

6. Tens of millions of people each year undergo background checks before they can buy a gun. There is no background check requirement for an abortion.

7. You also cannot lawfully sell guns across state lines; all interstate transactions must be processed through a licensed dealer in your home state. You are free to travel across state lines for an abortion. No laws prevent it. And as to the burdens of travel, we hear constantly about a “gun show loophole” – which is a misnomer because gun dealers have to do background checks even at gun shows – but if you want to attend a gun show to engage in a private sale, you may have to wait for one to be held somewhere you can reach, and travel quite a ways to do it; the very nature of gun shows is that they are not permanent establishments like abortion clinics.

8. As to the ultrasound requirements imposed by some states, abortion is itself a highly invasive surgical procedure. It’s not that uncommon to have various preparatory procedures before such things are done, at least if one has them done in a reputable hospital. Yet, unlike most surgeries, most abortions are not done in facilities regulated like hospitals, and there is vigorous political resistance to such regulation, even after the sensational Kermit Gosnell murder case revealed the horrid conditions that exist in some abortion clinics and the resulting deaths of women and infants. But ultrasounds need not be invasive; state laws that have required ultrasounds have left to the doctor the method of ultrasound required, despite misleading claims to the contrary, most notably in the Virginia ultrasound controversy a few years back, where the bill specified only that “[t]he ultrasound image shall be made pursuant to standard medical practice in the community”. Anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to deceive you, or has themselves fallen for deliberate misinformation.

And besides its medical utility, why do pro-life lawmakers want ultrasound requirements? Because looking at an ultrasound is (as anyone who’s seen one when they were expecting a child can tell you) a powerful way to dispel the false and unscientific claim that you are not looking at a human being. There’s an enormously active campaign to convince the public that an unborn child is not a human being. Whereas, nobody has made any effort to show that the typical gun buyer is unaware that the thing they are buying is a gun.

But education and information requirements are imposed in many states. For example, in most states, a permit is required to carry a concealed weapon. In order to get that permit, most states require you to take and pass tests on gun laws and safe gun handling. Some require you to demonstrate with live rounds that you can safely use a weapon. Some even require information from your doctor. Other states extend these types of requirements to all gun permit holders. And the NRA has actually pushed at times for mandatory and/or government-funded gun safety training in schools. The same people who want Planned Parenthood funded by the government, and contraception coverage mandatory in health insurance plans at taxpayer expense, oppose this.

So, the next time you see this meme or one like it pop up on Facebook, don’t get into an argument with your friends. Just show them this list.