With all the ongoing debate unfolding over the issue of firearm ownership in America today, it is necessary to respond to a very common objection that is usually leveled at pro-life advocates who happen to be on the Right side of the political spectrum.
The common objection leveled at pro-life advocates who happen to support legally owning firearms might make for a snarky meme or Tweet, but it is often ill-reasoned(if reasoned at all).
The objection goes something like, “Oh, you call yourself pro-life? Yet you own a gun, which is designed to take human life. You aren’t really ‘pro-life’ in any meaningful sense, but pro-fetus.”
Let’s review the pro-life argument, for clarity:
Premise 1: It is wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being.
Premise 2: Elective Abortion intentionally kills an innocent human being.
Conclusion: Therefore, Elective abortion is wrong.
Setting aside for the moment that the word “fetus” is often thrown out lazily as an emotional ploy to dehumanize the unborn without any further comment(and nevermind that the term is a clinical one meaning “little one” or little child in Latin to describe the entity within the womb), the assertion turns out to simply be a very lazy slander of the pro-lifer’s viewpoint, as well as a misunderstanding of their viewpoint on gun ownership as well.
To illustrate this, suppose instead of killing the unborn, we were discussing the killing of newborns. This is not as far fetched as it seems, since some pro-choice philosophers like Peter Singer, Michael Tooley, and others have suggested this as the logically consistent position to take if one defends abortion on demand. Ancient Rome also used to practice abandoning newborns(often baby girls) and leaving them to die.
Now, imagine the gall of saying to someone who thinks this to be evil, “Well, you aren’t pro-life if you own a gun, which is used to take human life, or oppose government funded healthcare, or stopping police brutality. In fact, you’re just pro-neonate.” The objection, even if true, is worthless in a discussion over what should be done to stop the intentional killing of newborns. It’s simply a red herring that adds nothing of value to the discussion.
I have addressed the question on the blog in past posts as to whether those who oppose government funded solutions to social problems are inconsistent(And, as I have pointed out, this simply assumes that policies at the federal level are the only option that is worthy of consideration, when that is precisely what needs to be argued).
However, what about owning a firearm? Does that make the fatal flaw in the pro-life view?
Nope. Again, going back to our syllogism, we see that abortion is wrong because it intentionally ends the life of an innocent human being. Contrast this with the vast majority of legal gun owners: Is anyone really going to suggest that there is a morally relevant comparison between a young woman using a firearm to protect herself from a rapist or mugger, for example, and an abortionist killing an unborn human via suction or dismemberment? Or if a man buys a handgun in order to protect his wife and kids if a person with evil intent enters his home, why should we assume that this is morally equivalent to elective abortion? Unless someone has completely bought into the notion taught in some women’s studies courses that an action is evil if it is somehow comparable to rape, the comparison is ridiculous on the face of it.
While we may continue to debate the finer points of gun ownership(And we should, because this is how a healthy and free society is supposed to function) throwing out slanders and personal attacks against an opponent’s position on other issues does absolutely nothing to aid needed discourse. It only serves to make tempers flare more than necessary, and turn arguments into fights at every turn.
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