How Pro-Choice Activists Are Like Pro-Gun Activists

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

They both oppose any incremental regulations to abortion and guns, respectively, believing those incremental steps are a means to banning. At least that’s what the following reader suggests, quoting an earlier reader:

But the interesting point is that I don’t think any of the owners of these collections would take umbrage at being called the appropriate type of nut.* They’d just smile, say they love their hobby, and think wistfully about the next addition to their collection. So why do gun owners react so differently? Is it because they’re defensive about the reactions of others to their “hobby”? Because the central organizing theme of their collection is lethality?

Being defensive about other’s reaction to an arsenal is a lot different than being defensive about a collection of shoes. If you embarrass your friend about his computer collection, or his shoe collection, he only has to deal with embarrassment. In fact, he has no reason to suspect you noticing the number of shoes or computers he has at all, since nobody has ever mentioned or floated a ban on him owning multiple numbers of shoes or computers or tools or cars.

In this case, though, you have voices calling for a ban on arsenals, and defining arsenals as a number of guns generally lower than ten.

In this case, the guy isn’t oversensitive because you are implying he’s overcompensating (well, sometimes maybe) but because you are implying that other men with guns should come and tell him it would be a very good idea for him to not have those anymore, or face jail time. That’s being floated about.

And then when he gets down to thinking about it, he realizes that a lot of shootings happen with numbers of guns as small as one, and never much larger than three. So he then gets to thinking: Maybe when it comes time to ban arsenals, someone will say, “Well, what we really meant was multiple guns, because just two or three is all it takes to multiply the risk from a single shooter.”

When pro-life people come in and try to incrementally restrict access to abortions in arbitrary ways, do you pretend what they’re doing isn’t going for a full and total ban, eventually? Nobody seriously does, because it’s clear what they’re doing is trying to restrict access in any way they can, any opportunity they get, because they are working towards the endgame of banning abortions. It’s transparent.

I don’t own guns, and I don’t enjoy shooting. That being said, what you are asking these people to do is either accept arbitrary regulation that doesn’t do anything (less than ten guns is still plenty to do a mass shooting with) or ignore the fact that what the people who mention “arsenals” and “assault rifles” without defining those terms really want as an endgame is no guns, at all, for anyone.

Thoughts? Email