We all know that progressives claim that more regulation of guns will deter violence and promote public safety. Conservatives counter that more regulation will disarm law-abiding citizens, while those intending to commit violent crimes will disregard any additional regulations. After all, if you are willing to violate a law criminalizing murder, you’re even more likely to disobey a law that makes it illegal for you to own a gun.
The progressive position seems to depend on what kind of laws they are talking about, however. Just consider how progressives reason when it comes to regulating, not guns, but abortion clinics.
Remember Dr. Kermit Gosnell? He was the doctor who ran an abortion clinic for many years in West Philadelphia.
Most of Gosnell’s clients were low income, minority women; a substantial number of the abortions Gosnell performed occurred late in the woman’s term, even shortly before birth. If a baby chanced to be born alive, Gosnell would kill it. According to the Washington Post:
“Patients were neglected; providers were not certified; and cats were allowed to roam and defecate in the clinic. ‘The walls appeared to be urine-splattered,’ the Philadelphia district attorney's office found when it inspected the clinic in August 2010, months after it had closed that February. ‘The procedure tables were old and one had a ripped plastic cover. Suction tubing, which was used for abortion procedures – and doubled as the only available suction source for resuscitation – was corroded.’”
Would tougher regulation of abortion clinics help prevent future Gosnells? No, according to the progressive justices on the Supreme Court.
In Whole Women’s Health vs. Hellerstedt, a 2016 Supreme Court case that struck down Texas regulations designed to promote women’s health at abortion clinics, Clinton-appointee Justice Steven Breyer, joined by the rest of the Court’s liberal bloc, argued that criminally-minded abortionists like Kermit Gosnell would pay no attention to the new regulations because people like that would disregard the law anyway.
So let’s think this one through: According to progressives, additional gun control regulation will deter even those determined to commit mass murder. But further regulation of abortion clinics will not deter determined wrong doers like Gosnell, because they will disregard the law anyway.
Here are Justice Breyer’s remarks:
"In the same breath, the dissent suggests that one benefit of [the Texas statute’s] requirements would be that they might 'force unsafe facilities to shut down.' To support that assertion, the dissent points to the Kermit Gosnell scandal. Gosnell, a physician in Pennsylvania, was convicted of first-degree murder and manslaughter. He 'staffed his facility with unlicensed and indifferent workers, and then let them practice medicine unsupervised' and had '[d]irty facilities; unsanitary instruments; an absence of functioning monitoring and resuscitation equipment; the use of cheap, but dangerous, drugs; illegal procedures; and inadequate emergency access for when things inevitably went wrong.' Report of Grand Jury in No. 0009901–2008 (1st Jud. Dist. Pa., Jan. 14, 2011), p. 24, online at http://www.phila.gov/districtattorney/pdfs/grandjurywomensmedical.pdf ... Gosnell’s behavior was terribly wrong. But there is no reason to believe that an extra layer of regulation would have affected that behavior. Determined wrongdoers, already ignoring existing statutes and safety measures, are unlikely to be convinced to adopt safe practices by a new overlay of regulations."
Let’s see how Justice Breyer will rule if new gun control regulations come before him.
[Image Credit: The Daily Beast]
Robert Delahunty holds the Laurence and Jean LeJeune Distinguished Chair and Professor at St. Thomas University in Minnesota. He received his J.D. from Harvard and was awarded a Kellett Fellowship to study at Oxford University, where he received a B.A. in the classics and a Bachelor of Philosophy.
Delahunty previously held positions in the U.S. Department of Justice, first in the Civil Rights Division and later the Office of Legal Counsel. He was also a Special Assistant to the Solicitor of Labor, and Deputy General Counsel at the White House Office of Homeland Security.