Imagine: You’d rather not be in this room, but you’ve agonized over the decision and just don’t feel secure in your future otherwise. So you find an expert who can help you, someone with the right equipment you can trust knows how to use it. Someone who’ll make your safety a priority.
But before you’re about to go through with it, an employee stops you cold with a series of questions:
Why do you need it?
Are you willing to pay for the cremation or burial of the collateral damage of your decision?
Would you be willing to look at these photos of their remains before you hand over your Visa card?
Now imagine going through that if you want to buy a gun:
If you’re one of the just 45 percent of Americans who support an assault weapons ban (at least according to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll) you may have dreamed a scenario like this.
But perhaps you’ve just seen this meme on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter, the one that flips the script on gun and abortion laws:
That meme is an accurate representation of the hoops you’d have to jump through if getting a gun was as difficult as getting an abortion (though according to the pro-choice advocates at the Guttmacher Institute about a third of women still terminate a pregnancy before they reach menopause.)
The two contentious issues have collided in violent ways over the years, as anti-abortion violence has resulted in fatal shootings, suffocations, and bombings of clinics, and the deaths of doctors, security guards, and support staff. The November 29, 2015 shooting at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs is the most recent incident: Robert Lewis Dear, Jr., 57, killed three and injured nine others; he used a semiautomatic rifle. At a court appearance, he called himself “a warrior for the babies.”
While gun control activists have become more, well, active in recent years, you’d be hard-pressed to come upon any who could match the religious zeal of anti-abortion activists. Various state laws have left around 1,700 abortion providers operating compared to nearly 130,000 licensed gun sellers.
Meanwhile, only a single abortion clinic remains in Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming, thanks to legislative action aimed at keeping providers from operating. Thirty-eight states now require some form of parental consent — something required by all states if a minor wants to buy a gun. Medications to induce an abortion have also faced heavy restrictions on storage and administering in the last five years.
“Since 2011, there’s been a sustained attack on abortion rights in this country in a way we haven’t really ever seen,” Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues associate at the Guttmacher Institute tells Inverse. “We’re expecting 2016 to be really ugly as well.”
Nash blames the shift largely on the conservative sweep of the 2010 elections that saw Republicans gain 63 more seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and take control of 26 state legislatures and 29 governorships.
By the Guttmacher Institute’s count, there’s been a total of 288 restrictions on abortions set over the last five years — mostly by state politicians.
“It’s been pretty unbelievable,” Nash says. “These are restrictions that have been adopted in 32 states, so we’re not just talking about what people might consider the usual suspects of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. This is one of the safest medical procedures in the country, and all these restrictions we’re seeing on it are designed to make access impossible, either by shaming women or closing these clinics down. But you know, destroying the access doesn’t actually reduce the need for these services.”
In comparison, in the three years since Adam Lanza’s rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary left 20 children and six adults dead, new gun control legislation in all 50 states has been barely scant. Connecticut, where the Sandy Hook shooting took place, strengthened existing gun laws and limited — but didn’t halt — people with a history of mental illness from buying guns.
“Our president is just trying to kill our Second Amendment rights, trying with all of his might,” said one gun show attendee to ABC 10 News in San Diego this fall. “Hopefully he doesn’t succeed.” On Black Friday, the FBI ran more than 185,000 background checks, a good indicator of gun sales, and good for a five percent increase over the previous year.
And as abortion access has been tightened, gun laws have loosened. Legislators in every state debated how to handle gun control in the year after the Newtown massacre, with local legislators introducing about 1,500 gun bills. Only 178 made it through a chamber of their state legislature, and of those a mere 109 were signed into law.
Roughly two-thirds of those new laws eased sales restrictions and gave gun owners broader rights. When Colorado law prohibited online training to earn a concealed carry permit, Montana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, Maine, and Virginia tipped the seesaw the other way by making concealed to carry permit records confidential.
While some states like New York started requiring background checks for private gun sales, only New Mexico introduced legislation that would close the gun show loophole. The latter bill died without getting out of chambers.
Unsurprisingly, the few states that have managed to make it harder to access guns, or at least make records publicly accessible, have a Democratic majority, while states that swing the other way have heavily Republican representation.
The often-made comparison between the two issues is at inspiring some action. At the start of December, Missouri state Representative Stacey Newman introduced House Bill 1397, which aims to make the Show-Me State’s gun laws line up with its abortion laws.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, Missouri has eight out of 10 of the most restrictive abortion laws (only Louisiana and Mississippi have more, with 10 each) that would make it awfully difficult for Missourians to arm themselves.
NRA statistics show that Missouri has the least bans on firearm sales, other than restricting felons from owning a gun.
“Since Missouri holds the rank as one of the strictest abortion regulation states in the country, it is logical we borrow similar restrictions to lower our horrific gun violence rates,” state Representative Stacey Newman announced in her introduction of the bill.
“If we truly insist that Missouri cares about ‘all life,’ then we must take immediate steps to address our major cities’ rising rates of gun violence,” she said.