When 200,000 pro-lifers gather in Washington D.C. next week, should they march for gun control?
Christopher Hale says yes. Hale, the director of the progressive group Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, wrote in Time magazine to praise President Obama’s latest gun control campaign.
Hale insists “Gun Control Is a Pro-Life Value” and says as part of the March for Life, Christians “must lift up the victims of gun violence.”
Hale overplays his hand. Pro-life and Catholic teaching are distinct from gun control: in logic, in practice, and in principle.
Before I start let me give Hale some credit for his principled reaction to the horrors going on at Planned Parenthood.
In this gun article, however, notice Hale’s logical jump in the above quote, a leap he commits several times. “Gun violence” is something everyone opposes. Hale then shifts seamlessly to “gun control.” He doesn’t actually make the case on why they are the same, much less why both are like abortion.
In a way, I have recently followed Hale’s advice: pro-lifers should highlight victims of gun violence. The problem for Hale’s case is that when you do, you see clearly how different the two situations are.
When 26 people were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut, including 20 children, everyone was horrified. President Obama was right to shed tears for them.
But when Hale asks us to compare those killings to abortion, one of the most obvious realities is this: the Sandy Hook shooting was illegal. Everything the shooter did with those guns was illegal. The police came to the scene to stop the killing.
If you go to an abortion facility in Connecticut and non-violently, peacefully try to save a child and mother from abortion, the police will come. But they won’t be there to protect the children. You will be the one they arrest. The State of Connecticut will then pay to kill those children. President Obama doesn’t cry for those babies–he vetoes bills so their killers keep getting taxpayer funding.
Thus the pro-life movement’s position on this issue is already consistent. The pro-life movement wants all deliberate killing of the innocent to be illegal: abortion and school shootings.
If progressives want to call the pro-life movement to task, they would first have to agree we should reduce the over 1 million yearly abortions down to the approximately 10,000 gun murders (or the 1,000 child victims thereof). They would have to turn the government into one that saves preborn kids the way they protect elementary school kids–not a government that pays their hitman.
On its pro-life issues page, Catholics in Alliance has some good things to say. But it concludes by calling “to ban abortion after twenty weeks.” Does this treat issues of violence in parallel? Catholics in Alliance wants to heavily regulate guns, on top of the fact that gun violence is already 100% illegal. On abortion, it calls to ban a minority of abortions, conducted in the late term.
If that’s all Catholics in Alliance can muster, they shouldn’t be calling pro-life marchers inconsistent. They might instead follow St. Ignatius of Loyola’s advice: “the sharper you are at noticing other people’s failings, the more apt will you be to overlook your own.”
The practical problem with Hale’s insistence on gun control is that he would make the pro-life movement drastically smaller. In the 1990’s there was a question whether groups with certain left-wing positions on sexual issues should take part in the March for Life. That debate has died down, and anyone who opposes abortion and is non-violent is welcome to the pro-life movement.
Hale’s position would add massive restrictions on who can be pro-life. Not only do you have to want the law protect preborn children, you also have to support gun control (and, by the way, just about every other liberal issue in the Democratic Party platform). Some writers at Catholics in Alliance even tell the U.S. Bishops they are insufficiently pro-life because they opposed the pro-abortion problems in Obamacare. Hale’s proposal would turn the 200,000 strong March for Life into a 100 person pro-life Democrats meeting.
Every social movement has parameters–it doesn’t and can’t address the universe of issues. The pro-life movement is about the government making it legal to deliberately kill innocent people. That’s the threshold question.
Notice what I’m not saying. I’m not saying the pro-life movement must favor guns and oppose gun control. I know and love gun control advocates who are staunch and effective pro-lifers. All I’m saying is it makes no sense to insist that to be pro-life you have to be for ever-increasing control of guns (up to and including confiscation http://americamagazine.org/issue/repeal-second-amendment). It’s ironic if progressives, as soon as they gain a “big tent” pro-life movement, turn around eject the conservatives.
Hale misses the core principle in Catholic teaching on guns. In his entire article he fails to recite the basic, easily findable teaching. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that when someone is “responsible for the lives of others” he or she has “the right to use arms to repel aggressors.”
Regulation of guns is something left to the common good, which the government should pursue in a reasonable, sensible way as it does other issues.
The best Hale can do to paint a different picture is quote Pope Francis lamenting a distinct problem, the international arms trade: “deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society.”
By framing the debate with this quote, is Hale suggesting that when a mother or father of a family buys a gun for home defense, she should be condemned as someone “who plans to inflict untold suffering”? Are families protecting their kids the same as drug kingpins, tribal warlords, and ISIS?
Hale goes on to support President Obama’s latest gun control pitch. It includes funding that the president didn’t bother to even ask for in the omnibus budget deal last month, and adds rules about who is a gun dealer that are either pointless or unconstitutionally legislative and vague.
The president’s political theater falls prey to nearly all gun control movement ideas: it doesn’t seriously try to address the actual problem. President Obama even said he “rejects” the idea that polices should do so, and in his January 7 town hall meeting he dodged all questions about what would actually help.
The Church does not equate guns and abortion. The magisterium specifically teaches that abortion is not only always immoral, but also it must be illegal (as expressed in the encyclical “The Gospel of Life.”) On that issue, general principle and specific policy largely overlap.
But when the Church simply sets forth general principles on an issue like guns–devices that are morally neutral in themselves and used by the police, President Obama, and Pope Francis–lay Catholics are simply called to exercise their reason and faith. When they seek sensible solutions for the common good they can and often do disagree–on how much to regulate guns, on how much money to spend on specific government programs, and on many other matters.
Trying to turn an issue of reasonableness into a matter of doctrine is improper. It usually means someone wants to give his own political party an episcopal imprimatur.