So Now That We're Regulating Tobacco, Why Not Guns?

| by Freedom States Alliance
With the Senate’s vote earlier this week to regulate tobacco, a giant step has been made towards better regulating tobacco for health and safety standards. If as anticipated the House approves the updated version and President Obama signs it, we will all have much to celebrate as countless lives and healthcare dollars will be saved.

While this is clearly good news, it also serves to shine a spotlight on another deadly product which is crying out for regulation: guns. As surprising as it might be, other than tobacco, firearms are the only consumer product not regulated for health and safety by a federal agency.

Teddy bears, radios, and hairbrushes, which combined kill less than 100 Americans each year, are all regulated for safety. Guns, on the other hand, kill 30,000 and injure another 70,000 Americans annually but are not regulated. Why?

In 1972, pro-gun special interest groups used their powerful lobbying influence to achieve an exemption from government regulation for firearms. This precedent continues despite the fact that guns are among the most deadly consumer products made.

Consumer product safety standards save lives. For example, improved safety designs in the packaging of over the counter drugs, such as pain relievers, have reduced the number of deaths from child poisonings. The automobile industry is another good example of where consumer protection laws have been successful in saving lives.

Changes in the design of cars and trucks–airbags, stronger frame construction, improved seat belts–have resulted in a decline of motor vehicle-related deaths and injuries over the last several decades. Improvements in the design, manufacture, and sale of guns would have a similar positive impact by reducing the number of firearm-related deaths and injuries in the United States.

During the recent recession, we have seen the devastating impact of industries, like banks, which in the past have professed that self-regulation is good enough.

Now that tens of thousands of Americans have lost their life-savings and jobs, many are no longer buying the self-regulation argument. Gun manufacturers have learned nothing from the recent chain of events in our country. They continue to: scoff at any attempt to reign in the deadly effects of their products; undermine all efforts to strengthen our nation’s gun laws; and refuse to protect the consumers who use their products. It’s time for a red flag to go up on this reckless industry.

In 1999, a bill was introduced by Representative Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) and Senator Robert Torricelli (D-NJ). Although it was unable to gain traction thanks to the gun lobby, the bill would have given the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms the power to:

  • Develop safety standards for firearms and related products;
  • Restrict weapons that pose unreasonable risks of deaths and injury;
  • Promote research and investigation into the causes and prevention of gun-related death and injury; and
  • Assist consumer in evaluating product safety.

As we have seen, like the banks, the gun industry wants one thing and one thing only: money. The more money they make, the happier and fatter they get, regardless of the consequences to the broader community.

Congress and the Obama administration need to find their courage and apply the same chutzpah in their efforts to reign in the deadly gun industry as they did recently with the banking industry.

Ten years have passed since the Kennedy-Torricelli Consumer Protection bill, perhaps someone needs to brush the dust off of it and give it new life so that more lives can be saved from guns.