Not long after the shooting in Newtown, Conn., I got into a little argument with a good friend about gun control. I lean liberal, he leans conservative. We exchanged the predictable points, and then something strange happened. It suddenly occurred to me that my friend’s position was the same as mine. But not in terms of gun control; he was espousing my position on abortion.

The pro-gun mind-set is virtually identical to the pro-choice stance. Twenty children and six adults were shot down in one day in Newtown, and gun control advocates want laws that will limit access to certain guns and certain types of gun clips. More than 3,000 fetuses are aborted per day across the country, and abortion opponents want access to such procedures ­— or at least certain types of abortion (late-term, etc.) — prohibited. Pro-gun folks bristle at the thought of any type of gun or ammunition clip access being banned, because if gun control advocates get an inch, they’ll try to take a mile. Abortion rights supporters make the same argument, especially in regard to late-term abortions.

Here it is, the 21st century, and conservatives and liberals have adopted the same stance on different issues, both involving the lives of children. It’s surprising and disconcerting.


As a rational, progressive-leaning citizen, I am disinclined to accept any hypocrisy, even my own. And when I examine these issues honestly, I have to acknowledge that liberal gun control proponents and conservative abortion opponents may both be wrong for the same reason. Limiting choice is un-American.

Liberals are not fans of abortion, but believe women should be able to make their own reproductive decisions. Conservatives harbor the same rationale for gun rights. They abhor gun-related deaths, especially of innocents, but believe Americans should make their own personal-protection choices.

Whether we like it or not, freedom doesn’t limit us to responsible, ethical, wise, or even healthy decisions. We are equally free to make irresponsible, unethical, unwise, and unhealthy choices.

A case in point is cigarette smoking. It’s dangerous and debilitating, individually and collectively, but somehow that doesn’t stop 60 million Americans from smoking and, in many cases, knowingly exposing their children to toxic secondhand smoke. It’s a slower death than the young victims at Newtown suffered. But in principle, it doesn’t make smokers any less evil than Adam Lanza. Or gun-makers any more lethal than cigarette companies.

It’s tough to stomach the deaths of 20 innocent children at the hands of a disturbed soul in Newtown. But a recent U.S. study of American drone strikes in Pakistan indicated that only 2 percent of the confirmed kills there were actually hostile targets. The rest — approximately 3,000 people, including almost 200 children — were just collateral damage.

Should this alarming fact of our foreign policy be any less disturbing than tragic events on our domestic front? In a free society, freedom is not a gift to the sedentary. It is a process requiring vigilance and, more importantly, vigilant reasoning. In regard to issues like gun rights, abortion, smoking, armed drone usage, and the like, I’m not sure we’ve been vigilant or reasonable.

Ultimately, the victims of Newtown, abortion, drone strikes, and secondhand smoke are all collateral damage, and almost always the measures we discuss for solving such problems address symptoms instead of cures.

We need to rethink our mind-sets and recalibrate our bearings. This country needs a debate on gun control but also on availability of treatment for the mentally ill and on our country’s use, sale, and abuse of weapons around the world. We need a debate on abortion that acknowledges all the questions — about fetuses, their mothers, and the ramifications of government control over a woman’s body. In short, we need a moratorium on hypocrisy in our public debate.

E.R. Bills is a Fort Worth-based writer whose work has appeared in numerous publications.


  1. Here’s the thing. To get an abortion a woman must seek the care of a trained professional who will carry out the procedure safely. The second amendment version of pro-choice would say that it is everyone’s right to perform abortions if they see fit. It’s not an equivalent comparison. Now, the question stands how we can allow access for responsible gun owners (such as in the trained abortion doctor) but limit access to people who are unfit (the idiot in an alley with a coat hanger). Also, I have a right not to be shot. As we see, it only takes one idiot with a gun and an itching to kill me to infringe on my right to life and liberty. I think that should override the importance of forming a militia to protect against the government who, by the way, will fight us with tanks, F-18s, and GPS guided bombs.

    • Your analogy to a second amendment right to abortion is wrong. It would read more like: the right to have an abortion shall not be infringed.

      Also, the idea that a tyrannical government will attack people with the military is wrong. In that scenario, it would not be a war with militia and military on a battlefield. It would be thousands of snipers killing the corrupt heads of government and small bands using gorilla tactics. A tyrannical government would not have a chance against an armed populace, but they could rule indefinitely against an unarmed populace, and the authors of the constitution were aware of this and wrote that protection into it for that purpose.

      • I disagree. The power to determine life or death resides in the hands of the doctor and the gun owner. It is the woman’s choice, but abortions are carried out by highly trained medical professionals under very regulated conditions and usually after the woman has been informed of all of her options. The second amendment gives this power to anyone who can get a gun. There needs to be a process whereby only trained, stable individuals are given this kind of power so that it can be utilized only under the proper circumstances.

        Ultimately, this country has a problem with addressing the true root of any problem. We all abhor abortion, but the public isn’t willing to teach sex-ed or educate as to how to access and use birth control. We all abhor mass shootings and gun violence, but we aren’t willing to get real about helping the poor and we still stigmatize people that access mental health services. We would rather look away from the weird kid, or the poor gangbanger, or the schizophrenic guy and only deal with the problem when it personally affects us. We would rather dig in on ideology than fix the problem.

        As for standing up to the government, luckily, we still have democratic elections so armed people don’t get to decide who gets sniped. But, I think the idea that a regime corrupt enough to repeal our rights to free elections wouldn’t have any qualms about using military force. And, if that is what the weapons are for, why does the debate always seem to come down to personal protection? It always returns to the idea that a person has the right to shoot anyone they perceive to be a threat. This idea did not come around until the NRA and the gunmakers started cozying up to one another in the 1970s-80s. Before that they were basically a gun club that had a much stricter interpretation of the 2nd amendment that didn’t talk about personal protection.

        • You need some work on your analogy. You said that to get an abortion you must visit a trained medical professional. Not true. In order to get a LEGAL abortion you must visit a trained professional. If order for a gun owner to legally kill someone he must…….. actually, there is no legal way for a gun owner to kill someone.

          You said that the second amendment gives the power to determine life and death to anyone. How so? How does the right to own a gun give you the power of life and death any more than owning a car, or a baseball bat, or a knife, or your fists? Those can all be used as weapons to kill.

          I don’t have to be a licensed doctor to perform an abortion, I just need a own coat hanger.

        • People can teach themselves how to use a gun, as it is a very simple device.

          Also, not everyone abhors abortion. Many people think nothing of it.

          As for a tyrannical government using the military against its own people: you are forgetting that the military is made up of people, and they would all refuse such an order.

  2. Your beginning analogy has one MAJOR flaw. Conservatives want to ban guns. A gun is a tool that has many uses both good and bad (like most other tools). Owning a gun does no harm to anyone. An abortion is the murder of an innocent human being. Every abortion results in a dead baby. There is no other use.

    If you want to call me a hypocrite by wanting to ban the killing of babies and also support the ownership of tools (guns) then go ahead. I can sleep at night with my decision, your name calling has no affect on me.

      • Target practice. self-defense, acting as a deterrent against someone who might wish to do harm, etc.

        What other use, beyond killing babies, does abortion have?

        • Saving women’s lives, keeping a baby from living a horrible existence caused by defects and giving women the liberty to have a baby when they want.

        • Target practice: Making sure you’re adept at shooting people?

          Your second two points are really the same: self-defence, in other words- shooting or threatening to shoot people?

          It’s not a can opener or a hammer, Joe. It’s a weapon.

          I don’t know why you’re assuming I’m pro-choice, perhaps you’re just trying to change the subject because all you can really do with a gun is shoot things?

          • Target practice: Making sure you are adept at shooting what you aim at. Why do you assume those are people?

            Self defense: protecting yourself against something or someone attempting to do you harm. Ask any hunter who has even been in an area with large dangerous animals (bears, lions, tigers, wild boar, etc). A rifle is his primary weapon but you better believe he has a handgun or two tucked in his belt in case he encounters something up close. Why did you assume I referring only to people?

            Why do you always go straight to shooting people? Perhaps you need some psychological help. Be careful though, that might prevent you from owning a gun.

          • So…you have a gun in case you get attacked by a lion. That’s cool.
            Oh and your comment about psychological help is just a low blow. Didn’t need to go there. Love the debate otherwise!

      • What other use does a handgun have? Have you never been plinking? Most fun. You just need a gun (handgun or rifle), ammo, cans (or just about anything else you don’t mind getting distroyed) and a place to safely shoot. Try it, you’ll like it.

        • Actually, I have. It can be great fun. I also think it’s fun to go to a range and fire off a few rounds. It’s fun. But every time I pull a trigger, I can’t help but think that it shouldn’t be that easy to kill someone.

      • actually a pistol is very handy for defense against animals, snakes etc. As an avid outdoorsman, a pistol is easy to carry. Rick Perry shot a coyote that was about to attack his daughters dog while out jogging. Doubt many people want to jog with a rifle strapped across their back.

  3. Interesting observation, thanks for the article. In thinking more about your comparison of the abortion issue and gun control, I would disagree that they are similar due to this reason- abortion only exists to abort a fetus, while guns can be used to kill people but are also used for recreational purposes.

  4. Even as an unrepentant gun owner and proud US Marine Expert Marksman, I’m compelled to point out the folly of those that mention the “other uses” of guns.
    1) Guns kill things.
    2) All other uses of guns are practice for the practical application of #1.

    While New York effectively gave away the right to certain guns, Texas is voting on a bill so we can arrest Federal Agents that try to enforce any new gun legislation.

    God Bless Texas!

  5. This argument cannot hold, you are comparing two different things that have contradictions within themselves.

    You don’t need to compare abortions rights to gun rights in order to find hypocritical arguments. Abortions sometimes are conducted because the woman bearing the child might not make it through the pregnancy. So which argument is right here? Pro-choice or pro-life? NIETHER.. The best thing you can do is leave it up to the woman who is bearing the child.

    Back to guns. I’m all about gun rights. However, i think it is unnecessary for someone to own military style weapons. But people do, and I’m not going to question why they do because they justify it and ultimately it’s their decision. We buy unnecessary stuff all the time so hey if you think you responsible enough to own a semi-automatic weapon go for it.

    However, not everyone is responsible, and there have been a lot of added provisions and amendments in gun laws that have made it pretty difficult to enforce the laws they way they were meant to be enforced. Added garbage to bills that over the years has made it more and more difficult to ensure that responsible citizens have access to any gun.

    There lies the problem, unfortunately for some of you responsible gun owners that enjoy their semi-automatic weapons there have been a lot of horrible incidents involving these weapons. You can say that you are responsible all you want but I’m sorry it was good while it lasted. Too many people messed it up for you. You can blame the elected officials who created irresponsible policies that allowed these weapons to be easily accessible to people that should not be anywhere near them.

    I’m sorry but you will have to pay for these policy makers mistakes.

    Right now is not the time to complain about why as a responsible gun owner you feel attacked. It is the time to make sure that these idiots who made those irresponsible decisions for the rest of country don’t do it every again.

  6. Abortion kills 1 million innocents a year, times 40 years. Your analogy is sick and distorted. Liberals don’t encourage abortion…are you serious!!!

  7. The author wrote, “As a rational, progressive-leaning citizen, I am disinclined to accept any hypocrisy, even my own.”

    Liberals are not rational, they want what they want and they want the government to provide it. And the only hypocrisy they are prepared to accept is their own, as evidenced by this very article.

  8. Brilliant analysis. As I read through the comments, I think it’s no wonder that so many children—raised on a steady diet of gun violence in movies and film, from John Wayne to Clint Eastwood to Daniel Craig, so many raised in a society that thrives on war–grow up to be obsessed with guns and find them sexy. Why should anyone be surprised? Trying to talk them out of it is like spitting in the wind. But you’re right. We have to start somewhere.