One of the more ridiculous claims from the gun lobby is the mantra “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” The conclusion that follows, of course, is that we don’t need any regulation controlling who can buy guns and what type of guns they can buy. And even if some regulation is permissible, we have plenty of gun laws already. We don’t need anymore.
Let’s take two other massive public safety issues our country has faced and see how well that argument holds up. For as long as I can remember, we have had laws prohibiting drunk driving, yet the number of deaths and the cost to society of people getting in their car and driving drunk was massive. We collectively decided we could do better. This didn’t become an issue that divided left from right. After all, it was all our children and relatives who were being killed. So what did we do? Did we say: “Heck, we already have enough laws here. We just need to enforce the ones we have.” Of course not. Too many people were being killed to sit passively by. So we enacted all sorts of new legislation lowering the legal limit, revising the penalties imposed, and requiring enhanced public education. Lo and behold, the death rate dropped.
Then we have cigarettes. There was a massive tobacco lobby much like the gun lobby who for years tried to convince us smoking was not all that dangerous. That ads designed to appeal to children to get them addicted to smoking were just fine. There is the First Amendment, after all, that protects free speech. Our forefathers smoked and they were the first real Americans. Jeez, when I come to think about it, even the first real Americans, the Native Americans, smoked. On the other hand, millions of people were needlessly dying, the costs to society were enormous. Might we figure out a saner, safer approach to this issue without removing the personal right of people to smoke? Of course we could and we have, and the results over time have been dramatically positive.
Why, then, can’t we do the same thing here? When people can buy guns without even a simple background check and arm themselves with weapons that ought to be reserved for the real army, not people’s militias, don’t we think we can do better? Do we really have all the right rules and regulations in place to protect us? I don’t think so.