Preventing gun violence is a pro-life issue

Originally Appeared in : 9721-10/12/17

“The choice is not between order and liberty. It is between liberty with order and anarchy without either. There is danger that, if the court does not temper its doctrinaire logic with a little practical wisdom, it will convert the constitutional Bill of Rights into a suicide pact.” -Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson

Imagine this: Children are dying from Ebola. The disease strikes randomly and death follows. Medical personnel can’t respond quickly enough to save the children’s lives. Whenever the disease strikes, hospitals are overwhelmed. Families are devastated. The public is heartbroken. People line up to give blood. Elected officials and religious leaders offer thoughts and prayers for the victims and their families. The media present stories on the beautiful lives of the dead children. 


If our country were afflicted by the outbreak of a deadly virus, wouldn’t money be poured into research to find the causes of this disease? Wouldn’t the public take every precaution to protect children from infection? Wouldn’t everyone unite over this common cause, saving the lives of the innocent? And if a vaccine became available (after all that research), wouldn’t government be within its rights to require that children be vaccinated to protect themselves and others? 


Imagine the counterargument to this scenario: 


The federal government cannot use public dollars to research the cause of this disease. The public can only protect the children from infection by infecting them and hoping their immune system will build antibodies. The government has no right to enforce vaccinations. And even if vaccinations were required, some parents would ignore them. So what good are they? It’s disrespectful to the children and their families to talk about a way to cure this disease so soon after it has struck. 


Indeed, according to this counterargument, addressing the cause of the illness and ways to eradicate it is not what’s needed now. What we need instead is to change the nature of the infection. If the disease were not evil, these children wouldn’t have died. 


Imagine this: Car seats for infants and children are being mass produced with serious defects. Children are dying from crashes when these car seats fail to protect them as they are advertised to do. 


Parents are devastated. First responders are sickened. These car seats, produced and distributed only in the United States, are protected by a powerful lobby. The manufacturers’ lobby insists that the car seats are not the problem. The problem is the drivers. This car seat lobby donates money to political campaigns. Because they want and need the support of this powerful lobby, the legislators are paralyzed to protect the children.


When legislators act, they create laws to protect the manufacturers. For example, parents are not allowed to sue the manufacturers of the car seats.


Government researchers are not allowed to study the correlation between the use of the car seats and injury or death. In some states, pediatricians are prevented from talking with their patients about the car seats.


How are the counterarguments to these imagined scenarios different from our responses to gun violence in the United States? 


Guns are protected by the 2nd amendment. That’s the answer from those who view the 2nd amendment as to be interpreted without restriction. 


In their minds, the best solution is to arm every citizen. Anyone who suggests that guns should be regulated is a threat. In fact, gun manufacturers’ stocks rise after mass shootings because these people, fearing new restrictions, insist on stocking up. 


According to them, government has no business restricting a person’s freedom to buy many weapons of most any type. They think we have to change the nature of human beings. If people are sociopaths or twisted, guns are not to blame. If guns are restricted, only criminals would have them. As a result of this mindset, government public health officials are prevented from researching gun violence. Because they depend upon the gun lobby to fund their campaigns, many legislators enact laws to make guns more broadly available and prevent reasonable restrictions. Sandy Hook parents were denied the right to sue the gun manufacturer of the weapon that massacred their children. 


So we persist in doing the same things over and over again, and we pretend to be shocked when a mass shooting like the one in Las Vegas destroys hundreds of innocent lives (children of God). 


We offer thoughts and prayers, and we go back to doing nothing to protect ourselves from people who decide to wage war on American streets. We mourn the dead. We praise the heroes. We clean up the carnage. And we do nothing else. 


Preventing gun violence is a pro-life issue. We have no real life if we spend every day looking over our shoulders, imagining ourselves and our loved ones being gunned down by a disgruntled person. 


Gun violence is affecting our public health in untold ways. Apart from the trauma and loss of life, our nation loses billions of dollars to gun violence. Wouldn’t that financial cost be of interest to fiscal conservatives? 


I am heartsick over the lives lost in Las Vegas. I was heartsick over Orlando, Charleston, Sandy Hook, Aurora, the list goes on and on. And I’m tired of feeling sickened and sad, and then returning to life as usual. I’ve been writing columns on gun violence since Columbine, over 18 years ago. And I will not stop. 


No group of people should have the freedom to terrorize our nation because they want unlimited access to high-powered weapons.


Those who won’t allow the 2nd amendment literalists to bully us into submission, please make your voices heard. Use your power of the vote. Join a group that works for reasonable gun laws. 


We cannot call ourselves pro-life if we do not confront this terrible national epidemic. 


Mary Hood Hart is a freelance writer and educator living in Pittsboro, NC. She can be reached at maryhoodhart@gmail.com.

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