Proponents of gun control legislation are often staunch supporters of the nebulous “right to choose” an abortion. Conversely, those who staunchly defend the right to keep and bear arms also frequently take the pro-life position. But to gun control proponents this is an untenable, even contradictory, position; “Guns kill people! They’re dangerous and deadly! Their only purpose is to kill! Yet you say you’re ‘pro-life’? You’re a hypocrite!”
Such sentiments, however, are based on logical fallacies, emotional reactions rather than rational analysis, and a misunderstanding of the role firearms play in a law-abiding society. In fact, the right to keep and bear arms and the pro-life position are entirely consistent with one another. It’s the positions of gun control proponents who are also abortion proponents that don’t match.
The nexus between the right to keep and bear arms and affirming the right to life is the sanctity of human life and the right to self-defense. Gun controllers fail to grasp, or to acknowledge, that firearms are means to ends; they are objects that possess no ability to act on their own, and have no inherent moral qualities. They cannot choose. They must be directed by human intention, and serve the ends of that intention.
A Right to Life Includes a Right to Self-Defense
As objects, they have no choice or say about how they are used. Their “purpose” is not to kill, but to shoot bullets efficiently. Given the likely billions of rounds fired each year by all firearms in all hands across the United States and the numbers of deaths due to gunshot wounds, which number in the tens of thousands, one can easily realize people put firearms to a great number of uses other than harming humans. To look at overall use, then, firearms are notoriously inefficient at killing, were that their sole “purpose.”
But human intention is paramount in using any tool or object. There are, broadly speaking, two groups of people: law-abiding and criminal. The intentions they have in employing firearms tend to be perfectly opposite. In fact, criminals intend to deprive someone of life, liberty, or property. This is the motivating force that precipitates the situation to which the law-abiding must react. Law-abiding people who are armed can then bring deadly force to stop the criminal actor.
The rights to liberty and property are meaningless in the absence of a right to life. Similarly, the right to life doesn’t matter when one is deprived of the right and means to self-defense. Firearms, generally, are the most effective means of self-defense. They are not the only ones, nor is their use always the most appropriate in a given situation. But in the hands of the law-abiding, they are importantly employed to defend the right to life.
The right to life is not, however, contingent upon self-defense; self-defense aids and abets it. One does not forfeit one’s right to life just because one lacks the means, ability, will, or awareness to defend oneself. The unborn human has a right to life, as does anyone who has not forfeited that right through criminal action and society’s legal judgment. But the unborn do not possess the means, ability, will, and awareness to defend themselves; they must be protected.
Any society that recognizes the right to keep and bear arms as legitimate means to the right of self-defense must then also recognize its obligation to defend the right to life of the helpless among us.
The right to life is mutual, and not exclusive, so long as someone doesn’t forfeit it through voluntary criminal action. You have a right to life, as do I, as do the helpless. One’s right to life does not exclude the right to life of another.
You Can’t Control Nature, But You Can Control Yourself
But what, then, to make of gun controllers, and abortionists? They argue on the one hand that they have a right “not to be killed” or to “be safe” or to “have a safe environment.” On the other hand, they also argue abortion is necessary for the healthy and happy life of the mother of the to-be-aborted child, and that she, and she alone, may choose when and if to end the life within her.
These are untenable positions. There are no rights to “safe environments.” Rights are natural to human life. They flow from nature, but depend on human volition and moral choice. It is because we can choose either evil or good that we can and must have rights. But those rights are vis-a-vis other humans only—you have no right to life from circumstance or natural action.
Will you indict a tiger, or an earthquake? Bring it up on what charges, to appear in what court? The environment will be as safe or deadly as we can make it, if we have any power to affect it. But, as noted before, the right to life is mutual, and not exclusive; and thus, also, is the right of self-defense. That being so, it cannot be the case that law-abiding actors must forfeit their right to self-defense in the (vain) pursuit of another’s “safe environment” or perception of safety.
The right to life and to self-defense implies a moral responsibility to act in the defense of one’s own life or on behalf of the helpless. This moral responsibility flows from the fact that choice and action, guided by morals, are a necessary condition of defense. It is, of necessity, a reaction to a threat, on some level.
As for a “safe environment,” there is no right to health or happiness. We are merely free to pursue them as best we can, but we are not obligated to receive either health or happiness from others, or from our environment, which are out of control of our moral choice.
But once again, the right to life is mutual, and not exclusive; nor is it dependent on means, ability, will, or awareness. The mother has no right to a healthy or happy life a) at all, and b) certainly not at the cost of another’s life, such as her unborn child’s.
No one has such rights, for they are a fiction. They cannot be guaranteed through moral action, nor against the vagaries of circumstance. Rights are the realm of law, not of medicine nor psychology. One does not have a right to be free of, say, celiac disease, or vitiligo, or depression. This reflects the inherent unfairness of life with which we must come to grips.
Thus, gun control proponents and abortion proponents seek an exclusive, non-mutual right to their lives at the expense of either unborn children’s right to life or others’ right of self-defense. The illusions of safety, health, and happiness, which they consider rights, are not; they are conditions that cannot be guaranteed or enforced through moral action. This is in stark contrast to the consistent, moral respect for life and self-defense of those who recognize the moral necessity of the right to keep and bear arms, and the protection of the unborn life.