Smoking Gun

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A handful of people have died from vaping, and President Trump immediately instituted a ban on certain flavored e-cigarettes. Three times that many people were killed in a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, and hand-wringing was the only action anyone took.

I’m not a fan of e-cigarettes, and I have no issue with regulating them more strictly in light of the mysterious recent deaths and the fact that vaping has caught on with a young, vulnerable population. Indeed, the government’s role is to provide regulations to help keep Americans safe. But when it comes to guns, there is a glaring inconsistency.

In the latest mass shooting, the gunman had obtained his weapon from a private sale, thus skirting a background check that would have marked him as ineligible to have a gun. There are numerous loopholes to our system of background checks that, if closed, could prevent violence.

There are also ways of getting around strict gun laws in one state; get a gun from a neighboring state. Once again, a nationally consistent set of laws governing the sale of guns would help keep them out of the hands of criminals and people with a violent history or history of mental illness.

Alas, I’m beating a dead horse here. The difference between the vaping crisis and the gun one is simple: money. E-cigarette manufacturers and vape shops simply don’t have the lobbying clout of the NRA.

What makes it even more frustrating to me is that in the case of vaping, I am in charge of whether or not I use a product that is increasingly being shown to have serious health risks. I can simply refuse to partake. But in the case of guns, lax laws could mean that in the course of going around minding my own business, I could still be shot and killed. Guns are a lethal weapon against which I expect the government to protect me.

There is not a single right enshrined in the Constitution that does not have some curbs attached to it. You can’t perpetrate violence in the name of your religion, for instance. Hate speech and inciting people to violence are not allowed. The right to bear arms must also be controlled in some fashion.

Ironically, President Trump cited his own 13-year-old son in his remarks about banning e-cigarettes. It’s laudable that he would want to protect his young son from danger. But don’t guns pose an even bigger risk to the son of the president? Secret Service protection notwithstanding, doesn’t Pres. Trump see that his child would be safer in a world with fewer guns in the wrong hands?

We’re not seeing the forest for the trees when it comes to guns. Unfortunately, there’s a raging forest fire, and no one is moving to extinguish it.

Last Stop

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The name of the shooting range should have given anyone pause – Last Stop. The nine-year-old girl was there with her family for a pleasant outing of learning to fire a military-style automatic weapon. Isn’t that the kind of experience you would share with your child? You know – sort of like visiting the driving range and hitting a few golf balls or whacking some baseballs in the batting cages at the local fun park.

The accidental shooting death of a gun instructor at the shooting range in Arizona is an indication of just how crazy the American infatuation with guns has become. Since the horrific shooting rampage at Columbine High School in 1999, Americans have almost gotten used to hearing about tragic shooting deaths. Virginia Tech, Ft. Hood, a movie theater in Colorado, and – most horrifically, to me – an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. These names are now associated in the public mind with unspeakable horror.

And those are just the high-profile massacres. What about the daily violence in my own city of Chicago, which most recently saw the death of a nine-year-old boy who was shot multiple times in his South Side neighborhood? What about the so-called slumber party shooting when a girl innocently enjoying time with her friends was killed by an errant bullet that penetrated the wall of her room? Whether obtained legally or illegally, guns have been the cause of so much destruction and heartbreak.

I was naive enough to think things would change after Newtown. The faces of little first graders, now dead, would surely soften the hearts of even the most die-hard NRA member. But no. The framers of the Constitution are turning over in their graves with how far afield our modern interpretation of the Second Amendment has gone. Gun laws get less restrictive instead of more. In Chicago, the current capital of shooting deaths, law enforcement officials are coping with a newly passed Illinois concealed carry law. It is a sad sign of the times that libraries and hospitals have to post prohibitions against carrying guns into their facilities.

At the Last Stop gun range, has the blood soaked into the dirt yet? Is it back to business as usual? I try to imagine how the little girl must feel after losing control of her Uzi – yes, you read that right – and shooting her instructor in the head. How horrific are her nightmares in the aftermath of that terrible day? How is the family of Charles Vacca, the instructor, dealing with their loss?

It may be true that “guns don’t kill; people do.” But a semiautomatic weapon makes it so much easier.