The XX Factor

People Should Protest Gun Shops Like They’re Abortion Clinics! Oh, Wait…

If you’ve got a critical mass of progressive Facebook friends on your roster, you’ve probably seen some version of the above image floating around over the past few days.

I first saw it in the aftermath of the shooting at Oregon’s Umpqua Community College in October, and last week, in the wake of the massacre in San Bernardino, California, the image made its rounds again. Fusion surmises that it’s most likely a paraphrasing of a 2013 Examiner post by William Hamby, but no one’s come forward to take credit for the concise condemnation of America’s draconian abortion politics and the comparative ease of accessing a firearm.

The fantasy scenario could (but probably won’t) become the new norm in Missouri, where state Rep. Stacey Newman has proposed a largely symbolic bill that would heighten gun control provisions to the level of state abortion restrictions. Prospective gun owners would have to wait 72 hours between filing for gun ownership and actually purchasing the gun, just as women have to wait three days between their initial abortion consultation and the actual procedure. Gun buyers, like abortion seekers, would have to undergo state-directed counseling about the risks associated with the action they’re about to take. They’d also have to visit an emergency trauma center that’s currently treating victims of gun violence and purchase their firearm from a store at least 120 miles away from their home since, as of 2011, 74 percent of Missouri women lived in counties with no abortion provider.

The logic of the mystery post is tempting. In many states, it is significantly easier to get a gun than an abortion. This is despite the fact that gun buyers are purchasing items specifically designed to kill full-fledged human beings, oftentimes as many as possible in as little time as possible. Abortion seekers, meanwhile, are exercising agency over only their own bodies, lives, and reproductive health. Guns endanger both their owners and anyone else in their immediate vicinity. Abortions affect only the patients who need them. Even the anti-choice set has admitted, in its own convoluted, precious way, that gun violence is generally more troubling than the procedures enacted by abortion providers.

So why shouldn’t gun-shop rallies be as commonplace as the angry mobs outside abortion clinics, with equally grisly images, passive-aggressive prayers, and hyperbolic slogans? Oh, right—because people exiting gun stores are carrying deadly weapons, not recovering from medical procedures. A gun owner is far more likely to shoot or threaten a gun-shop protester with a gun than a clinic patient is to retroactively abort an anti-choice demonstrator, as much as she might like to. In fact, most of the very few purported incidents of gun use in self-defense are actually incidents of arguments escalated to the point of violence because there was a gun present. The reason why protests at gun shops will never be as widespread as protests at abortion clinics is the same reason why the initial argument makes so much sense: Abortions don’t kill people; guns do.