After each mass shooting in the modern day, people take to social media to share their thoughts, prayers, and feelings on gun legislation. Among feminist circles, you have probably seen a certain quote on gun control versus abortion by Gloria Steinem pop up following Sunday's violence on the Las Vegas Strip. It's a well-reasoned paragraph unfavorably comparing the ever-tightening restrictions on abortion to the ever-loosening laws on civilian gun ownership, but there's one flaw. Despite being commonly attributed to Steinem, she didn't actually write it.
"I want any young men who buy a gun to be treated like young women who seek an abortion," begins the passage. It goes on to argue that while restrictions like mandatory waiting periods and notes from health professionals are associated with abortions, they're more appropriate for the purchase of a firearm. Yet it's women seeking an abortion who undergo this kind of scrutiny — not men seeking a deadly weapon. Read it in full below:
"I want any young men who buy a gun to be treated like young women who seek an abortion. Think about it: a mandatory 48-hours waiting period, written permission from a parent or a judge, a note from a doctor proving that he understands what he is about to do, time spent watching a video on individual and mass murders, traveling hundreds of miles at his own expense to the nearest gun shop, and walking through protesters holding photos of loved ones killed by guns, protesters who call him a murderer.
After all, it makes more sense to do this for young men seeking guns than for young women seeking an abortion. No young woman needing reproductive freedom has ever murdered a roomful of strangers."
Some variations leave out the last two sentences, but the gist is the same. The passage has been shared often in the days after the mass shooting in Las Vegas, part of a larger re-invigoration of gun legislation talks, and it's easy to see why. In just a few sentences, it exposes the hypocrisy of politicians who claim to value the sanctity of life while allowing the sale of weapons that so easily snuff it out.
However, it wasn't written in response to the shooting that left 59 dead and more than 500 wounded on Sunday or any of the numerous other shootings that have taken place in the last few years. As The Cut points out, the quote has been around since at least 2015, when Steinem included it on her list of the "Top Ten Things I Want for Christmas" posted to Facebook. But while she shared the quote, she made it clear that she hadn't written it herself.
"This riff is not mine, it’s on the Internet," she explained in the post. Clearly, Steinem approves of the passage's sentiment, but it would be incorrect to attribute it to her. The true author, however, has yet to be identified.
According to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit gathering information about gun-related violence in the United States, Sunday's event is the 273rd mass shooting to take place in 2017 alone. Such violence always seems to rekindle discussion of firearm legislation, but Congress is notoriously reluctant to tighten gun control. Republicans often accuse gun control advocates of taking advantage of these national tragedies for political gain, despite polls indicating widespread support among Americans (including gun owners) for policies like expanded background checks. A year after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, for example, efforts to pass gun control legislation have fizzled out.
A similar story appears to be playing out right now. On Tuesday, Republican leaders put off a House bill loosening access to gun silencers, but according to the Chicago Tribune, they have also chosen to take no action on gun control after the Vegas shooting. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said it is "premature to be discussing legislative solutions, if there are any."
Meanwhile, the House managed to pass a ban on abortions after 20 weeks, criminalizing any procedure except in the case of rape, incest, or risk to the mother's life. Unlike gun legislation, tightening restrictions on a woman's right to terminate pregnancy appears to be no problem.
The gun control versus abortion passage is truly relevant in light of current events, so keep sharing away if you're so inclined. Just be sure to give credit where credit is due — not to Steinem, but the anonymous American who put to words what so many are feeling.