17 Dead. So Now What?

Brad Weber–Staff Writer

There is a public menace facing this nation. It claims the lives of 88,000 Americans every year, according to the CDC. Since the founding of our country it has been a part of our culture, but it has led to countless tragedies. The laws we have are clearly ineffective if you simply look at the death toll, but our lawmakers are lobbied and funded by powerful interest groups and are unwilling to address the problem and implement commonsense laws. Why are we, as a nation, so infatuated with our rights that we cannot see the clear path to prevent this needless bloodshed? Isn’t it finally time to repeal the 21st amendment?

You’ve read correctly: the 21st amendment. If you don’t recall from your high school American History class, that was the amendment that repealed the 18th amendment and made alcohol legal again. All these facts are about alcohol. Alcohol kills a lot of people in the U.S. On February 17th, a 6-year-old girl was playing in her yard when she was fatally struck by a drunk driver. As tragic as this event was, I didn’t hear any calls for an alcohol ban or more restrictions on the substance. No one told our politicians that the blood was on their hands because they failed to restrict access to alcohol. No one blamed the powerful alcohol lobby.

According to the CDC, there are around 33,000 firearm-related fatalities a year, less than half of the 88,000 alcohol-related deaths. The “powerful” gun lobby that is being heavily criticized, spent $10 million in 2017, as compared to $30 million spent by the alcohol lobby, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. As an aside, both these amounts are paltry sums compared to the almost $300 million spent by the pharmaceutical lobby. Alcohol is regulated to the point that you need to present a state-issued photo ID to purchase. In contrast, to purchase a firearm, you need to present a state-issued photo ID, undergo a background check, purchase through a Federal Firearms Licensed company, and fill out an ATF form 4473. To purchase a handgun, you must apply for a permit to purchase at your local sheriff’s office, as well as completing the steps for purchasing a firearm in general.

So, if alcohol kills so many people, and is lightly regulated, why do we not hear calls for stricter alcohol control after drunk driving tragedies? Maybe it is because people believe an alcohol ban would only affect law-abiding citizens, who don’t drink and drive anyway. Maybe it’s because people believe if you ban alcohol, people will just make their own. Maybe people believe that we have a right to consume alcohol, and the government should not take that right away. Maybe they believe criminalizing alcohol would only shift the market underground and give criminal organizations a source of revenue. Clearly anyone who makes these arguments doesn’t care about dead children. They are infatuated with their right to consume alcohol. Lawmakers who don’t support prohibition are puppets of the powerful Distilled Spirits Council. No one should be opposed to commonsense alcohol-control laws like banning assault alcohol. What possible use does anyone have for 90-proof alcohol?

On second thought, maybe those arguments are legitimate. It might be better to have constructive dialogue about the principles that govern our society instead of demonizing those who hold to their values. We should look critically at the fact that, according to the National Crime Victimization Survey, firearms are used for self-defense between 60,000 and 120,000 times annually. We shouldn’t ignore the mixed results of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994. It’s time for a dialogue about guns that’s based on facts and values, not emotion.

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