Speaking of Women's Rights: How About A Little Consistency To Go Along With Our Fundamental Rights?

Monday, January 14, 2013

How About A Little Consistency To Go Along With Our Fundamental Rights?

Americans are committed to liberty and freedom – especially their own. The National Rifle Association and its most vociferous supporters repeatedly (and hyperbolically) proclaim the fundamental, constitutional nature of their right to own and carry any darn weapon that shoots an object out of a barrel that they choose, and to own, carry and use them as often as and wherever they choose.  

I can understand their feelings, even if I disagree morally and legally with their position. And I do distinguish between someone who owns and uses a gun for hunting, or who has one for personal protection and is cautious about storing and using it, from those who want to buy (and use) semi-automatic weapons and those capable of firing hundreds of bullets or rounds. But assuming for a moment that the right is indeed fundamental, I have a suggestion* about how we might balance that right against the need to safeguard our communities, our children, and all our people. Let’s use the model of another fundamental right to craft sensible laws and regulations around gun ownership and use.  

Women have a fundamental right to choose whether and when to bear children. That right is also rooted in the Constitution, and is as vociferously defended and attacked by those who agree and disagree as is the NRA’s position. Herewith some modest proposals for possible regulatory action, modeled on the plethora of laws  restricting women’s fundamental reproductive autonomy.

Obviously, waiting periods come first, and we should use the one that most stringently “protects” women. That would be 72 hours. So anyone who wishes to purchase a firearm must wait three days before they can obtain it. Actually, if we were truly mimicking abortion laws, they would have to wait three days between when they want to use the weapon, and when they actually may. But why be picky?

We’re told that women need to receive detailed counseling (whether based in fact and science or not) before they can obtain this very safe, legal procedure. Often they are required to view an ultrasound  that may or may not actually reflect the state of their pregnancy. Make sense? Great: anyone wishing to purchase or use a gun must be counseled by an Emergency Room physician from a hospital that sees a large number of gunshot wound patients  and must view photos or X-rays of people who have died from gunfire.  Oh, there isn’t such a doctor or ER in your community? So sorry; guess you’ll have to travel, perhaps a long distance, and it might mean you incur extra costs for accommodation and other expenses.

But perhaps we should echo Arkansas, Kansas, Texas and many other states, and also mandate that you receive counseling from someone who doesn’t actually know anything about medicine, isn’t qualified to opine about your health, and gives you false information. Like: gun ownership increases the risk of death. Oh, wait. That’s true.

State legislatures all over the country are considering (and often passing) bills establishing ‘fetal personhood’ and asserting that a 20-week fetus feels pain, despite the dubious scientific validity of this latter claim. Therefore, we ought to require that those dedicated to the fun of an AK-47 experience the pain that ensues when someone is shot with one. Alternatively, we could limit the number of bullets, or rounds, that a person may own to 20. (Okay, maybe just limit the number of weapons to 20.)

Favor parental consent? Works for me, in the context of assault weapons. Except maybe it should be consent from one’s own children. Or the children next door. Or the PTA.

And then there’s protecting women by enforcing stringent laws about where abortions may be performed, even though abortion is one of the safest medical procedures -- certainly safer than giving birth.  Discharging automated weapons or other high-caliber firearms shall henceforth be done only in a confined or controlled space, with appropriate structural and design protections. If all you want to do is practice firing, isn’t a shooting range the best place to do it?

True, some of these proposed restrictions are arguably unconstitutional. Then again, many if not most are arguably unconstitutional when applied to abortion as well. So step right up, legislators, and be the first to sponsor these “person protecting” laws.

*okay, it wasn’t my idea.  But he didn’t ask for credit, so I’ll claim it until he does.