From the archives


A prescription for gun control

As a red-blooded American, I love guns. And as a gray-haired arthritis sufferer, I love prescription pain killers.

The pharmacist keeps the drugs behind the counter until I hand over my prescription and he taps away at his computer. (He's either running some kind of verification or finishing his electronic Solitaire game.) Anyway, in just a few minutes, I have my medication and am on my way.

Having certain categories of drugs as "prescription only" makes a lot of sense. The world is a safer place knowing that desperate drug addicts or teens at wild parties won't be celebrating with "Celebrex."

And, it's really not that much of a hassle for law abiding, mentally-competent adults. People shouldn't be able to look through the classified ads, visit a trade show, or pay their friends to get prescription drugs. Are you still with me? Nod your head if that makes sense.

Why then, are products that are far more lethal than pain killers allowed to be sold through the newspapers, trade shows, and that shady looking character's car trunk?! I'm talking, of course, about guns.

Like I said, I love guns. But today, teens are 39% more likely to die from "lead poisoning" than from disease according to the Center for Disease Control. Maybe that's because a 1994 survey found that one in thirteen (7.4%) high school students took a gun for show and tell. (That number rises to one in five or 20% for inner city males who claim to be packing something other than their lunch at school.) One in five suburban male students owns a gun.

And, the United States, which prides itself in being Number One, is tops in gun deaths. We blow away Australia and Europe by a five to one margin and Asia by a 95 to one ratio.

But after all the posturing by politicians and lobbying by the National Rifle Association, Congress has failed to pass any reasonable gun control legislation following the national outcry for some sane safeguards.

Why not sell guns like prescription drugs are sold? Okay, okay, you wouldn't need a prescription. "Fire as needed for relief of anxiety and stress." (Blasting away at tin cans is great therapy!)

First, guns could only be bought and sold at a licensed gun dealer or what I'd call "armacists." No sales from the trunks of cars or unregulated trade shows.

Secondly, the armacist would check your ID to make sure you're 18 years of age and then tap away at his computer to make sure you're not listed as a convicted criminal, mental institution escapee, or international terrorist. In just a few moments, you're headed home with your weapon of choice.

As long as you buy a legal weapon, pass the quick background check, you can buy enough guns to arm the South Koreans.

It makes sense to me, but making sense has never been a government policy.

By having to buy and sell through a registered dealer, law-abiding members of the NRA won't have any more hassle than picking up their Viagra prescription. And the anti-gun lobby will have assurance that there are some reasonable regulations.

Of course, there will always be abuse. Kids sell their Ritalin on the junior high black market. Spouses borrow each others pain medications. The elderly often over medicate. But at least, by having some medications as "prescription only," there are some safeguards.

To be totally, completely fail-safe, you'd have to run down to the corner drug store for each dose of medicine, which the pharmacist would make sure you—and only you swallowed—right there at the counter. Those are the kinds of safeguards some of the anti-gun lobbyists want to impose! The NRA, on the other hand, seems to be advocating allowing everyone behind the counter at the neighborhood Walgreens.

It seems to make sense to me. But then again, my prescription warns I may become drowsy and cause a good deal of damage with heavy equipment, so maybe it's just the Celebrex talking.

Copyright © 1999 James N. Watkins

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