In the course of the last ten days, we have witnessed mass shootings in a Buffalo grocery store, a Taiwanese church in Los Angles, and an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. At last count 32 people have been killed, several wounded, and hundreds traumatized by the vicious acts of individuals wielding high-powered rifles. Meanwhile, in cities across the country, young people are shooting each other in staggeringly high numbers. All of this has occurred while hundreds of thousands have marched and protested across the country while the Supreme Court deliberates on whether or not to overturn the 50-year-old Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision which granted women the freedom and right to have an abortion. And, oh yes, during this upcoming Memorial Day weekend, the National Rifle Association (NRA) will be holding its annual convention in Houston, Texas (278 miles due east of Uvalde), where pro-life politicians Ted Cruz, Greg Abbot, and Donald Trump are scheduled to speak. The odd and conflicting juxtaposition of these events should not escape us.
I consider myself both pro-life and pro-choice. I believe we should do everything possible as individuals and as a society to prevent unwanted pregnancies. From my perspective abortion should be the last option for avoiding unwanted pregnancy. Sex education, birth control pills, and condoms should be readily available at little to no cost. In the end I also believe the woman who must carry and birth that child, however it is conceived, should have the free choice as to whether or not to carry the child to birth. Having watched my wife carry and give birth to our three daughters, I don’t believe I have the right to force a woman to go through the agony and risk of the birth process; that is the woman’s choice and her choice alone. However, I also believe that the man with whom the woman conceived the child, should also be held to account and not be allowed to drift off into the shadows unnoticed and unaccounted for.
In line with Christian ethicist Ron Sider, I consider myself completely pro-life, by which I mean that my concern for life extends way beyond the womb to a belief that every person should be given a living wage, have access to quality healthcare, be able to attend quality and safe schools, live in a safe and amenable home, be free of the threat of violence and not be required to fight in armed conflict. My pro-life stance also applies to access to guns. This is where the juxtaposition of events these past ten days confronts me.
The very people who have sought to overturn a woman’s right to an abortion are the same folks who resist any and all attempts to regulate a person’s ability to purchase guns on the basis of the Second Amendment to the Constitution. Setting aside that the clear wording of that amendment says nothing about having unfettered access to any and all types of firearms, the hypocrisy of those who oppose any sort of regulations on the purchase and use of guns is clearly evident and deeply troubling. That Texas politicians Governor Greg Abbot and Senator Ted Cruz are planning to address the NRA convention while giving only lip service to the dead of their state, is appalling. How dare they call themselves “pro-life” while not providing protections for the most vulnerable — children, seniors, and ordinary citizens – of our nation.
If I were in Texas, I would be heading to the Convention Center where the NRA is meeting this weekend, highlighting and protesting their brazen disregard for the well-being of the nation. I would call upon delegates within the NRA —many of whom privately believe there is a need for regulation of firearms — to speak up and act up this weekend. And I call on all those who claim to be “pro-life” to reflect on the meaning of that term in all its fullness. To do less than that is to simply be anti-abortion and not truly pro-life. Like many people I have worked to promote the passage of common-sense gun laws like stronger background checks, waiting periods, limits on how many guns one can by at one time, a ban on assault rifles, and requirements to report guns that are lost and stolen. We must take this charge not only to state legislatures but to gun manufacturers, gun sellers, and lobbying groups like the NRA. Otherwise, as so many more well-versed in these issues than I have made clear, the carnage and death will continue.
And that is unacceptable!