Guns, abortion and being “pro-life”

Family members console one another in the wake of the Umpqua Community College shooting. Photo courtesy of

Family members console one another in the wake of the Umpqua Community College shooting. Photo courtesy of

By Isabel Gibson Penrose, Opinions Editor

Of all the big political issues of today, few are more controversial than gun control and abortion. While at first glance they may seem very different, they have a very important commonality: they both revolve around life. The Republican Party tends to be very against a women’s rights to abortions and supportive of the right of every American to bear arms. The Democratic Party tends to be very supportive of a women’s rights to abortions and supportive of more gun control laws to prevent the alarming rates of gun violence we see in the United States today.

Make no mistake: gun violence in America is alarming. Each year in America more than 30,000 people die from gun violence. The latest gun-related tragedy occurred on October 1, in Umpqua Community College, when a shooter killed nine people and injured nine others before killing himself. According to Newsweek, this was 45th school shooting to take place in 2015. President Obama solemnly addressed the shooting, stating, “Somehow this has become routine. The reporting is routine. My response is routine. My response here at this podium ends up being routine, and the conversation in the aftermath of it. We’ve become numb to this.” He called for stricter gun control laws once again, and the backlash was as swift as it was predictable.

“Don’t politicize tragedy,” the Right Wing scolded President Obama, forgetting that the last sitting Republican President took advantage of the fear and sadness caused by the 9/11 terrorist attacks to send American troops into Iraq based on false information. Hypocrisy runs deep in the Republican Party, as I will address in a minute. Fortunately, the scolding is just another part of the routine, and President Obama had the foresight to address it in his initial statement. “This is something we should politicize. It is relevant to our common life together, to the body politic,” he explained. Gun control is a political issue, as every issue regulated by the government is a political issue, but Republicans would rather criticize our President than admit he has a point.

Holding the highest office in the nation obviously opens the President up to criticism, but this is not a deterrent for the many, many 2016 candidates, who have weighed in on both abortion law and gun control. Republican Presidential Candidate and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s response to the tragic shooting in Oregon was, “Look stuff happens, there’s always a crisis.” Comparatively, during the first Republican Presidential debate, when asked about his views on abortion, he stated, “I am completely pro-life, and I believe that we should have a culture of life.” Try to imagine a culture of life in America where lives taken senselessly by gun violence are as deeply mourned by the people in our government as the potential for life lost when a woman gets an abortion.

Mike Huckabee insisted, “We have not so much a gun problem, we have a problem with sin and evil.” He used similar rhetoric when talking about abortion, meaning Huckabee may be the most consistent candidate on the issue of life, and his stance boils down to America having a “sin problem.” Yes, being “pro-life” is certainly a strongly held belief by a large part of the Republican Party, but it is also a wildly inconsistent one. When “lives” are taken by abortion, it is a travesty, it is a tragedy, and it is an unspeakable horror. When lives are taken by guns, suddenly they are the price paid for freedom–what the Founding Fathers would have wanted–and the Second Amendment at work. From where does this discrepancy in the value of life come? It cannot be as simple as because women get abortions and men get guns, right? 98 percent of mass shooting perpetrators are male, and 100 percent of people who get abortion procedures are female – but this issue has to go a little deep than basic sexism, right? Maybe not.

When women want jurisdiction over their own bodies, Republicans are all about life. But when people want to feel safe in movie theaters, churches, high schools, colleges and even elementary schools, lives are suddenly qualified as much less important. While I was getting ready for class this past Monday I legitimately decided not to wear heels in case the threat each Gettysburg student received an email about, the threat of a school shooting in the Philadelphia area, was realized and I needed to run for my life. The fact that Republicans across the country value a cluster of cells no bigger than a peanut (the size of a fetus at 12 weeks) more than the right of every American to get ready for school, the movies or church without fear disgusts and frightens me.

The connection between these two issues, and the incredible disconnect with which they are treated, was beautifully summarized in a post that has been circulating around social media this week. Originally posted by Brian Murtagh, who attributes the main points to writer William Hamby but does not know who compiled, it reads, “How about we treat every young man who wants to buy a gun like every woman who wants to get an abortion – mandatory 48-hour waiting period, parental permission, a note from his doctor proving he understands what he’s about to do, a video he has to watch about the effects of gun violence, an ultrasound wand up the ass (just because). Let’s close down all but one gun ship in every state and make him travel hundreds of miles, take time off work, and stay overnight in a strange town to get a gun. Make him walk trough a gauntlet of people holding photos of loved ones who were shot to death, people who call him a murderer and beg him not to buy a gun. It makes more sense to this with young men and guns than with women and health care, right? I mean, no woman getting an abortion has killed a room full of people in seconds, right?”

Life is precious, there is no doubt, but if you are going to hold that belief over the heads of women who want access to abortion, you must also hold it over the heads of people who want access to weapons that kill.

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