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The Smoking Gun

There’s a saying out there that goes something like this: Is there really a difference between guns and cigarettes? The answer is simple –  guns fire and kill first, and then they smoke, however cigarettes smoke first, and then fire and kill. Here’s my proposal: do to guns the same thing we did to smoking; shame them out of people’s hands, then deal with it later.

Let’s take a look at a timeline of smoking in the U.S. Early in the 17th century, there was a high demand for tobacco in European countries. The problem at first was that even in areas primed for tobacco production in the colonies, it just wasn’t profitable to produce on a grand scale. Luckily for them, a solution came around fairly quickly in the form of slavery. Predictably, exports of tobacco skyrocketed after the inclusion of that institution, and tobacco use was catapulted into mainstream use. Fast forward to the 1940’s, and cigarettes were ubiquitous. It became a universal prop in most Hollywood movies at the time. You could find Marlboro ads in every magazine and many women’s’ pocketbooks came with a built-in compartment holder for cigarettes. Subsequently, cigarettes developed their own language – the ability to convey the different moods and tones of their wielder. One author at the time described it like this: “To convey caution or thoughtfulness – light the cigarette in a very elaborate manner and after taking a puff, admiringly gaze at the stick. Need to show irritation? Frequently flick the ash from the cigarette and tap your foot against the ground in an impatient manner. Anxiety: Take constant, quick puffs of the cigarette while pacing back and forth.” Distress, anger, jubilation, amusement, courage, fear, passion and every emotion known to man could be expressed through some cheap leaves wrapped in a bad habit.

But what happened to all that? What happened to the full page smoking ads in every magazine sold on the corner of every block? What happened to the biggest blockbuster franchises in the world such as the James Bond series in which cigarettes were a consistent prop to the character. Now Daniel Craig personally refuses to smoke at all on the big screen saying “I don’t wish for [Bond] to smoke. Fleming wrote a Bond who smoked 60 cigarettes a day. I can’t do that and then run two-and-a-half miles down a road, it just doesn’t tie in.” A large reason for the diminishing amount of smokers was due not to political, but social movements consisting of enormous ad campaigns, no-smoking signs popping up in small businesses and a general increase in knowledge about the harmful side effects of smoking.

The reality of the times have finally caught up to smoking – now it’s the guns’ turn. Like cigarettes, guns are big business. $5.1 billion of estimated federal and state taxes were generated by the industry in 2012 and The National Rifle Association consists of 4.5 million members and regularly lobbies congressman to approve pro gun legislation. In short, guns are everywhere – ubiquitous – (sound familiar?),  and the people who pour money into them are not so different than people buying packs and packs of Lucky Strikes 15 years ago.

Like the tobacco industry, the gun industry has completely shrouded its products in a cloak of positivity and self protection that is just flat out not true. In 2012, there were 1.2 million violent crimes in the U.S. Simultaneously, it was reported by the Violence Policy Center that there were a total of 259 gun related justifiable homicides, or to put it simply: killings that were ruled to be in self defence. NOW THEN, out of 1.2 million scenarios where a gun could have been used in self defence and keeping in mind that there are over 300 million firearms in the hands of civilians in the US, only 259 of those were self defense cases. The idea that guns are crucial and necessary for self defense is just statistically untrue and completely unrealistic. Your buddy Joe from around the block isn’t likely to stop an armed mugging or robbery regardless of if he’s carrying or not because he just won’t.

To be honest, I still haven’t completely solidified all my beliefs concerning gun control. I guess that’s one of the advantages of being a young, impressionable kid – the fact that my opinions could still change. Having said that, there is no question that this is one of the most polarizing issues of our time, and for every mass shooting incident that occurs there will rightly be an ignition of arguments on every side of the problem. It’s too big of a beast to kill with one silver bullet. Wear it down and get guns out of peoples’ hands naturally and through a social movement by making it culturally uncool – just like what this country did with smoking. If politicians won’t pull the trigger, a solution like this is worth a shot.

by Ron Sulla


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