SayUncle seems to be warming up to Rand Paul, but isn’t happy about Rand Paul going against abortion rights. I am generally in Uncle’s camp on this particular issue, but I understand why the issue is so contentious, and why people are passionate about it. I don’t pretend to have any real moral insights into where life begins, and therefore where the rights of the mother need to yield. I think philosophically, it’s an issue that is far more difficult than many people who have strong opinions on it imagine it to be. At the end of the day, what has made me fall on the abortion rights side of the spectrum is that I can’t abide by the fact that enforcing an abortion ban would entail roughly the same kind of tactics we’re seeing right now with SAFE. This may not be a popular notion in today’s political climate, but I tend to think if you’re going to make certain behaviors serious crimes, they should generally be behaviors that pretty much everyone who isn’t criminally anti-social can agree ought to be crimes.
It’s with that I want to start in on a comment, and follow-up, that appeared yesterday by Peter Hamm, who used to work in the gun control issue, but has since moved on. Peter has always been a strong adversary, and a decent person, so I think his point is worth addressing in a post:
So, to clarify, gang, when you say enforce the laws on the books, you mean the laws on the books that pass muster with a broad cross-section of then gun rights community.
I respect you, and try not to ever treat you disrespectfully, but do we all get to choose the laws that we find acceptable, and disregard the rest? I for one am aware of many laws, such as the federal income tax laws, that I would rather opt out of, but have always thought that doing so wasn’t an option.
Consider this, for example. If one of these town officials says he won’t enforce a new gun law, you applaud him. What would you have thought if the National Park Service had said it wouldn’t allow concealed, despite the rider on the credit card reform bill?
We’re Americans. If we don’t like a law we’re free to fight for its repeal. We’re not free to disregard it. That gets liens put on your house, social services putting your kids in protective custody, stuff like that.
I think this can be a good starting point for a discussion on both the left and the right to develop a bit of understanding. That’s why this post started with the topic of abortion, because it is another very contentious moral and social issue that we argue very passionately about.
If abortion were generally made illegal, or very close to illegal in a state, would folks on who are passionate about abortion rights believe that women who smuggled abortion pills into the state ought to be subject to felony penalties and thrown in jail? Should they just obey the law, and stick to lobbying for repeal? What if the law makes traveling out of state for an abortion a felony? Is the woman who drives a friend worth throwing in prison for 10 years? If the state did an ad campaign targeting women’s magazines and television, telling other women to report if a friend or neighbor had an illegal abortion, with rewards offered for arrests, would you be outraged? What about doctors who refuse to obey the laws and decide carrying out safe abortions in medically sound conditions is better than women resorting to back alley abortionists and coat hangers? What about a woman who gets a botched abortion, gets a bad infection, and seeks legitimate medical treatment? Should she face a felony rap, and be forced to choose between sterility, and possibly death, or a lengthy prison sentence?
For those who are against abortion, this is what enforcement would mean. Sound familiar? Even if we disagree with each other’s moral compass on life’s starting point, you’re still dealing with fundamental issues of personhood, and those are always the kinds of topics we’re going to have the worst arguments over in America. Slavery was an issue of personhood, and we fought a bloody civil war over that.
Likewise, the gun rights debate is actually not about guns, but is rather a personhood debate, derived from the fairly common and historically pervasive American notion that the right to keep and bear arms is a fundamental right of citizenship and personhood. The right to defend one’s home, one’s life, and one’s liberty is deeply rooted in our sense of personal autonomy, self-reliance, and in our relationship with those who govern us, or who would claim to govern us. It is just as much about a right to our own corporal integrity and dignity as it is to many who support abortion rights.
98 Responses to “Some Thoughts on Guns and Abortion”
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