Guns and Abortion

I guess I should say something about the most recent discussion on guns in the United States. My take is that the answer to the problem of gun violence rests on changing culture rather than law.

The right to own a gun for self-defense and the right to have an abortion are both constitutional freedoms that many people reject as too costly (in other words, they kill lots of people). In both instances, though, if you ended the rights in question there would be plenty of lawbreaking that would be even more costly. So what is the upshot?  You can have regulations that marginally restrict the activity, but they are largely symbolic (say, banning partial birth abortion or things that are characterized as assault weapons).

Another solution involves just persuading people that the act in question is wrong or unnecessary.  This is much harder and far less satisfying because it concedes that the activity will continue, but in terms of reducing the harm it’s probably the more effective answer.

I wonder whether gun control proponents will start moving in the direction of direct protests (say, outside their local gun shop) the way anti-abortion activists target clinics.

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15 Responses

  1. Joe says:

    I do think culture is a major concern here but a range of policies are possible that could significantly affect gun violence.

    For instance, studies suggest you can set up policies that potentially reduce gun suicides by the hundreds or more by quite possible tweaks. Background checks and other means are possible here too that affects thousands. The “marginal” nature of national policies here is unclear though they might not directly involve guns (e.g., drug legalization).

    BTW, “in other words, they kill lots of people” … even many who oppose abortion do not necessarily treat embryos and fetuses as “people” especially in some full sense. Few don’t in respect to those killed by gun violence.

  2. Brett Bellmore says:

    There are a number of differences, of course, starting with the big one: The right to own guns is actually mentioned in the Constitution. Has it’s own amendment in the Bill of Rights, even. While the right to an abortion is just, as they say, the emanation of a penumbra. This has it’s political effects…

    If you wanted to reduce suicides, (Why in Gods name do you care only about gun suicides?) there’s a little fact that might clue you in on where you should be looking for a solution: About half of all suicides are recently divorced men.

    Imagine the tsunami of funky colored ribbons if most suicides were women, and half of all suicides were women who’d just been through divorces. Would it get blown off? Not a chance.

    But it’s the other way around, and it does get blown off. Where are the divorce crisis centers for men? Mandatory mental health exams immediately after men are divorced? Serious questions about whether the institution of divorce in America maybe treats men in a heavy handed way?

    No, the only time gun controllers care about the majority of gun suicides, something approaching a third of all gun deaths, is as a contributor to a number they wave about. No interest at all in doing something about it.

    • Shag from Brookline says:

      Brett, you are a survivor. This group could use your help. But you may prefer building up your arsenal for whatever you hope Trump brings us. I trust you are not blaming women for the problems of divorced men. Marriage should be a two-way street. Some women may be bad partners. Some men may be bad partners. But guns do not resolve the issue. In any event, guns and abortions are separate issues.

      • Brett Bellmore says:

        Well, I don’t know why I’d blame women for the problems of divorced men. I mean, just because my ex emptied our joint accounts, cashed our joint tax refund, and diverted all this into an account I knew nothing about, before divorcing me, and left me with all our debts and no savings anymore, doesn’t mean a woman was responsible for my problems. Right?

        Granted, the judge was really the one responsible for letting her get away with it. Maybe I should blame her? Or my divorce attourney, should I blame her for going along with my financial ruination, and helping by ripping me off with excessive fees?

        Come on, be serious: If women suicided after being divorced, who’d hesitate to blame men? Why should we hold women blameless when men kill themselves after women divorce them and leave them financially ruined?

        • Shag from Brookline says:

          By the way, does the data regarding suicides of divorced men breakdown by race? I ask because of the recent articles on morbidity of while males. And did the “welfare state” assist you in your recovery from financial ruin?

          • Brett Bellmore says:

            Nope, but I understand it helped my ex, even after she cleaned me out.

            I’m not sure if there are specific stats on the racial demographics of men who commit suicide after divorce. Suicide rates for whites, and American Indians are much higher than other groups, though. Black suicide rates are quite low. In 2013, 70% of all suicides were white males. And the majority of those were after a divorce.

  3. Joe says:

    “(Why in Gods name do you care only about gun suicides?)”

    Who are you talking to? Does the word “for instance” confuse you? I cited it as an example, but if you want to rant go right ahead, and those who want to regulate (as we regulate speech, voting and other rights, we regulate guns — we have every single year of our existence as a country and did so before we were one) cite is as one matter to address. They also care about mental health as a whole, those who support regulation overlapping with others concerned about issue.

    “as they say, the emanation of a penumbra”

    One case said that and even there in only one opinion. It is true, as noted by the 9th Amendment (also part of the Constitution), “the enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people” and one way to determine such rights is to look at the text and work off that to find rights necessary. A similar principle is used for powers. State sovereign immunity, except in a limited way in the 11A isn’t explicitly stated either.

    The 2A expressly covers a certain thing — its language, e.g., doesn’t exactly fit if hunting or even self-defense (“Congress shall make no law abridging personal ownership of guns” is not the text) – and many uses of guns probably were seen as implicit liberties just as the basic right to control your body. But, there are various explicit texts involved that touch upon abortion including equal protection of the laws. And, if Brett is so concerned about store owners being allowed not to serve blacks, how forcing people to stay pregnant is not a form of slavery or involuntary servitude is unclear to me.

    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2669824

    The fact control of a woman’s body is a basic liberty and is important for a range of constitutional rights down to not letting sectarian religious beliefs be the basis of the law has political effects too.

  4. Brett Bellmore says:

    The Nineth amendment, Joe, was never previously to my knowledge to be held to render a right something which was at the time of the ruling a crime in most states. It was more of catch all, intended to preserve as rights things which were already understood to be rights, but which weren’t mentioned.

    Turning a crime into a right is the sort of thing you need an *on point* amendment for.

  5. Joe says:

    So, we are moving past the fact it is not enumerated (though I would argue enumerated rights do cover it) to something else? Whack-a-mole.

    Abortion was allowed in each states for various purposes and a federal case noted that to prevent vagueness it would be useful to use one of them (“health”) in a broad sense. TODAY, even w/o Roe v. Wade, abortion would be broadly allowed (this is used by those against Roe), so your argument doesn’t really help regarding formulating the right in the current day. Finally, the fact governments broadly deny rights by itself does not seem a reason to determine they — such as control of your very body — do not exist.

    At the time of Roe v. Wade, the right to choose an abortion was generally understood to be a right — Roe v. Wade was a 7-2 opinion that the public (including many religious institutions such as the Baptists) accepted as correct though a minority rejected it or thought it went too far. The right to control your body then and now is generally accepted as a right etc.

    Saying something is a crime is not a constitutional right is a tad circular. I continue to fail to see why it is not ‘on point’ to say that involuntary servitude — especially if it covers serving blacks in public accommodations — covers forcing women to give up their bodies to have children. Slaves thought so.

    • Brett Bellmore says:

      “TODAY, even w/o Roe v. Wade, abortion would be broadly allowed”

      Without Roe v. Wade, abortion laws in the US would probably be more like Europe; Very lenient for early abortion, much more strict for later abortion. The problem with RvW constitutionalizing the issue, (And with Doe v Bolton later the same day.) is that it locked in the most extreme version of the pro-choice ideology, beyond the power of democracy to make compromises. America’s abortion laws are amazingly lenient compared to most nations for this reason.

      Anyway, surely you must admit there’s a difference between an explicitly guaranteed right, and one that had to be inferred.

  6. Joe says:

    Brett continues to raise new issues.

    My original reply addressed the “emanations” point. His reply focused on abortion (the Griswold case involved a subject where his new wrinkle would not work) being a “crime” most places. But, that is misleading, since it was actually allowed — it was not some fully illegitimate act like perjury or something — in a range of ways. This was an important factor in the ultimate decision.

    His latest reply moves on to how abortion laws might be without Roe. But, the original context of my comment was that CURRENT understandings of rights (be it over abortion or guns) would make the “broadly a crime” rule not really work. Whack-a-mole.

    A Ginsburg-esque criticism of Roe going to fast is another debate. Anyway, yes, there is a difference between rights though again I think abortion rights directly are required to fulfill multiple constitutional rights. Helped by the 9A, this results in people broadly (debating on details like a majority support gun rights but debate on details) support a right to choose an abortion.

    And, as I noted, just what the Second Amendment “explicitly” says is greatly open to debate and is debated. I personally think the right to own a firearm gets key support from inferences and unenumerated rights. All by itself, the 2A might convince Brett and others, but it is somewhat less “explicit” than all that for a broad right to own a gun.

  7. Joe says:

    “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

    Not, “Congress shall make no law regulating arms” or “the right of the people to possess and use firearms” or various other phrasings. If “involuntary servitude” is not clearly “forced motherhood” etc., the phrasing seems a bit cloudy more so. Such cloudiness helped to lead states pre-McDonald to be allowed “to make compromises” via “democracy.”

    The U.S. is different from other countries in both these areas though Canada, for one, is very pro-choice and the strictness of abortion laws in other countries such as Australia in practice turn out to be misleading. Like Heller, however, Roe v. Wade left open lots of regulations.

  8. Brett Bellmore says:

    ” Like Heller, however, Roe v. Wade left open lots of regulations.”

    That’s true, it was Doe v Bolton that really gutted the regulations.

  9. Shag from Brookline says:

    Here’s how some read the 2nd A:
    (
    ““An unregulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free people to challenge the federal (or a State) government, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

    • Brett Bellmore says:

      Nah, it definately says the militia should be well regulated. I’m all in favor of that, keeping in mind that “regulated” didn’t mean the same thing in the 1800’s as it does today. They should certainly have standard arms, uniforms, be well trained. That’s what “well regulated” meant when the 2nd amendment was written. I used to say back in the 90’s that the best thing the federal government could have done with the militia movement, would have been to appoint their officers, and assign them a strict training schedule. It’s not like they could argue with it being constitutional to do that.

      The thing is, it’s not the militia that have the right to keep and bear arms, it’s the people.