The Gun Control Movement Needs Its Own Pro-Life Fanatics
The other day, there was a mass shooting in the United States. The president said, entirely accurately:
Somehow this has become routine. The reporting is routine. My response here at this podium ends up being routine. The conversation in the aftermath of it. We’ve become numb to this.
We’ve good reason to feel numb. After the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, in which twenty small children were murdered, a couple of pathetically limited gun control proposals went nowhere in Congress and ten states passed 17 laws weakening gun restrictions. The gun control movement in this country is a pathetic failure.
There is, I think, only one realistic way forward for advocates of stricter gun control, and it involves adopting the tactics of one of the most despicable groups in contemporary American politics: the anti-abortion movement.
Things surely seemed similarly hopeless for the anti-abortion movement after Roe v. Wade. But within three years, with deft lobbying and the instrumental support of Catholic bishops, Congress passed the Hyde Amendment, forbidding poor women from using Medicaid to cover the cost of an abortion.
That was the prelude to a series of impressive victories. The number of abortion providers in the United States peaked in 1982, and fell precipitously over the next twenty years. By 2005, 87 percent of U.S. counties lacked an abortion provider. In 2010, a wave of ultra-conservative politicians swept into state legislatures across the country. They passed more abortion restrictions in two years than were passed in the entire previous decade.
These victories were not easy. Americans are broadly pro-choice, with a comfortable majority supporting legal abortion. But the few who ardently oppose abortion have been able to skillfully exploit a certain squeamishness most Americans feel about the procedure that leads them to tell pollsters that abortion should only be legal “in certain circumstances.” Stuck with the fact that abortions are, for the foreseeable future, a Constitutionally-protected right, the conservative movement has decided to make it as difficult as possible for as many women as possible to exercise that right.
They have succeeded, politically, in making incoherent compromises (abortion is murder but we shouldn’t jail women for it, abortion is murder but we should allow women who’ve been raped to receive abortions) sound like the “moderate” positions in the public debate. They have taken over state legislatures and the entire Republican party. They have passed broadly unconstitutional laws to force legal challenges. They have passed narrowly constitutional laws designed to make getting abortions difficult and expensive. They have intimidated and terrorized abortion providers and pregnant women. They have shut down every single clinic in Mississippi but one, and they have passed a law designed to shut that one down, too. The Supreme Court might, in its upcoming term, allow Republicans to end abortion in every state in which they hold power. If the court doesn’t do that, Republicans will just try again in a few years.