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The Smoking (Gun) Section

Anti-smoking campaign launched

C. Everett Koop made a mark on public health in America. He was a forceful advocate for rational scientific facts that were at times in opposition to his own personal beliefs. He refused to imbue abortion with (unsubstantiated) claims of lasting psychological damage. He forced a (seemingly) reluctant administration into acknowledging and fighting AIDS. He may very well be the only surgeon general whom we can all name and picture and that is in no small part due to his anti-smoking campaign. Dr. Koop was the catalyst for the most dramatic change in social behavior in our time. Alarmed by the effects of smoking Dr. Koop, and without much support from his administration, he went up against the powerful tobacco lobby and took to the podium (in his impressive uniform.) He appealed directly to the nation to change their ways. He issued a report about second-hand smoke and campaigned for smoking restrictions in the workplace and restaurants. Through his efforts, both academic and rallying; Americans began to change their attitudes towards smoking. Smokers gradually went from the freedom to smoke anywhere in a restaurant, to doing so in a designated area, to doing so outdoors. People grumbled and even got angry, but they moved and public health improved. The air quality improved for all and smoking diminished (dramatically) overall.

Smoking became a personal behavior that must stay personal. What if we were to do the same with gun ownership? What if we were to treat guns as we do smoking, as a public health issue? People can own guns, they can shoot guns, but they most do so in the shooting section. Guns must be registered and licensed and be stored at a registered and licensed gun club. The clubs provide shooting ranges and would be allowed to sell ammunition. Licensing and registering a personal (at home) handgun would require the purchase of a gun safe. Gun security in a house in which children are allowed or live would be treated like cars and car seats. Any adult caught having an unsecured gun in proximity of a child would be subjected to the same penalties a person driving with an unrestrained child. Hunting is already a highly regulated endeavor. There are times of year in which a person is allowed to hunt particular animals and there is licensing. Hunting guns would be registered, licensed and stored at a hunting lodge (or a locker in the state police barracks.) Gun owners would be fined and have their license revoked if they don’t abide by the rules.

Would creating a ‘smoking’ section prevent illegal firearm sales or guns ending up in the wrong hands? Maybe, maybe not. But by changing what we consider normative behavior, we do change everything. What Dr. Koop did was shift our society’s perception of smoking. We moved from glamorizing a behavior to recognizing it for the blight on public health that it is. If we no longer accept that an individual’s right to gun ownership trumps that of the public good we will be that much closer to protecting our children and ourselves. If we begin to see that guns, like cigarettes, are a personal choice that must remain personal we are that much closer to controlling gun violence. People who choose to own and use guns responsibly should embrace this notion and extricate themselves from any organization that preaches personal freedoms above that of a safe and secure society. They should tear up their membership cards and visibly step away from an organization whose solution to violence is to arm elementary schools. There is a name for groups whose use of violence creates a general climate of fear in a population.

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Posted by on March 4, 2013 in Cultural Critique

 

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This Land Is Our Land

Even if you’ve been buried in sand (umbrella drink in hand) or up to your elbows in zucchini plants, you’ve probably heard certain rumblings of the past two weeks: Where are the statements from the president or presumptive nominee on gun control? Could there possibly be a better time or a more receptive nation to which to deliver a strong message? Are the “candidates'” faith in the electorate such that any poking of the NRA with a stick is simply not worth the risk? No doubt you have heard or made all of these arguments over dinner, at the farmer’s market or in the cabana. It is hard for us mere mortals, those of us not actively working on a presidential campaign, to wrap our minds around the silence. To most of us there is nothing politically incorrect about limiting access to semi-automatic weapons.

No doubt the “candidates” have their eyes on a much larger picture than you or I. But it’s hard to imagine what could be more significant or legacy building than diminishing carnage. It’s a given that both political parties have clever people working for them who perhaps specialize in artistic wordsmithing. A powerful, compassionate statement is easily within their reach. A statement, which in fact even the NRA would not take serious issue. A statement that addressed the human lives snuffed out every single day, while honoring the intent of the second amendment.

What is encouraging is that people, who are not running for the highest office in the land, are speaking out. Mayors, religious leaders and the police are talking publicly about mental health, limiting firearm purchases, creating safe havens, changing the culture, etc. While it doesn’t change our unease with the ear splitting silence at the top, it offers hope. The NRA’s power stems from being a well-organized group of like-minded individuals. Yes, their power probably cannot be overstated, and yes they have succeeded in being just as threatening as the products they defend. But that doesn’t mean they cannot be successfully challenged. Bullies in fact rarely back down because an authority figure orders them to do so. More often it is the bullied, often times collectively that gives the bully a mighty cease and desist ass kicking. The timing is right for all of us to get ticked off and lay our own claim to the constitution (and while we’re at it the flag.)

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2012 in Cultural Critique

 

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