What If We Regulated Guns and Ammunition Like We Regulate Abortion?


After the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, it didn’t take long for the so-called “pro-life” movement to say that it was too soon to discuss gun control. Then, at the same time it tried to equate the gruesome riddling of bullets of 20 children between the ages of five and 10 years old with providing safe, legal termination of unwanted pregnancies. Priests for Life founder Father Frank Pavone tweeted, “Sadness, rage re killing of children in the school today; I feel it DAILY 200 times over children killed in the womb,” while Tea Party comedienne Victoria Jackson asked why President Barack Obama wasn’t “crying” for the “millions of babies” he “had aborted this year.”

That this type of politicizing instantly occurred shouldn’t be surprising. This is the same group that argued for patience, further investigation, and a call to not politicize events after the death of Savita Halappanavar in Ireland. Months earlier it had demanded immediate accountability, lawsuits, clinic closures, and stripped licenses after the death of Chicago woman Tonya Reeves after complications from a second trimester abortion.

Still, here we are, examining the tragedy around us, analyzing whether something could have been done at any point to stop it. Are we able to do anything to prevent this sort of event from occurring again, or do we just accept these murderous occasions as the inevitable cost of allowing others to fully engage their own constitutional rights?

This weekend, I was getting ready for a radio interview on the lame duck session in Michigan and the passage of H.B. 5711, when I found myself reminded that once the public desire to curb abortion rights began to fade, anti-choice factions introduce bans and restrictions instead as matters of personal safety. At one moment, Michigan Republicans were pushing the omnibus super bill as regulation necessary to protect the lives and health of women who want nothing more than to access their legal right to determine under what circumstances they wish to continue a pregnancy. At the same time they promoted a bill that would make it easier for gun owners to carry lethal weapons in areas such as elementary schools and daycare.

Both in the name of safety, of course.

According to the Associated Press, “As of October 2012, there were 50,812 retail gun dealers—that’s 3,303 more than in 2009.” The report stated that along with the increase in gun dealers came an increase in violent crime, an 18 percent uptick in 2011 that marked the first time that the number had gone up since 1993.

I can’t help but wonder what would happen if gun purchasing, licensing, and access were treated with the same fervor as restricting a woman’s right to choose. Why can’t we create a Targeted Regulation of Ammunition Providers? How can a state that makes a woman wait 72 hours after talking to a doctor before she can have an abortion allow a person to purchase a handgun the second an “instant background check” comes back clean? How does it seem reasonable that I receive about 4000 locations for “gun shops in Mississippi,” yet the state offers only one clinic where a woman can end an unwanted pregnancy?

How can passing restrictions on abortion be considered a protection of women, but restricting the types of guns, ammunition and location that weapons can be bought or used is seen as a violation of civil rights?

What if for every regulation on clinics and providers, termination methods or informed consent mandate, an equal bill was proposed to regulate the firearms industry? While trying to access a gun shop, the customer will need to first navigate his or her way past sidewalk counselors who will be offering pamphlets or maybe even large posters showing what the victims of gun crimes look like. On a good day, it may just be someone imploring the customer to be more responsible, that a weapon isn’t the answer. Other days there may be more zealous counselors who unfortunately might call them names, shout, perhaps even try to block their access to the store in an attempt to start a conversation.

No gun or ammunition purchase could be completed until a potential customer speaks to a shop owner, then returns home and comes back to the shop a minimum of 24 hours later (72 hours if you live in Utah). Guns can only be purchased in stores dedicated directly to the seling of firearms and ammunition, and obtained from sellers with full legal arms licensing and certification as well as a proper professional background, such as former military or police officers. The gun shops themselves should sell only guns and gun supplies, and may not be a part of any other store such as department or sporting goods store. However it also must ensure that it is the full size and scope in layout and building plan of any other retail store, despite not needing the additional space or equipment.

A customer must provide the gun seller with the reason he or she is purchasing the gun, as well as sit down with the seller to tell him or her if anyone may be pressuring the customer into purchasing a gun. The seller will need to determine if the customer may feel unsafe and remind the potential customer that there are in fact other protection options.

In South Dakota, a customer would also have to go visit an outside organization before completing the handgun or ammunition purchase. The outside group will simply be checking to ensure that the potential gun owner is making the right decision. Unfortunately, there may be some strong-arming to try to talk him or her out of continuing the purchase, and either way the outside group will now have personal information about the customer and his or her intent to buy a weapon.

Many other states, on the other hand, will provide the shop owner with a script to be read to the customer before final payment and exchange of goods, reminding him or her that a gun is a dangerous weapon and repeating the names of each mass shooting in the last 12 months. Some states may even require customers to listen to a description of a recent shooting, although that can be bypassed if it is watched 24 hours in advance via website or phone recording.

Regardless of all of these steps, and whether the weapon is in the end obtained legally, the shop owner would still be held liable for any injuries that occur from the purchased gun or ammunition. The owner could be sued not just by the person who purchased the gun, but any relatives would also acquire the right to sue should any unintended violence occur at the hands of the purchaser.

If it’s so easy to regulate abortion out of existence under the guise of protecting the women who are legally enacting their right to privacy, why can’t we regulate guns just enough to ensure that 20 schoolkids can’t be slaughtered in time it takes to sing the alphabet?

How is that not pro-life?

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