There’s a product out there that kills thousands of people a year. Yet it’s glamorized heavily in popular culture. It’s viewed as being very fundamental to the American experience. People bring them places they shouldn’t, and want to bring them everywhere, despite a growing tide of concern that maybe such things shouldn’t be everywhere.
I’m talking, of course, about cigarettes.
Or am I talking about guns?
InnWhen I was a kid, back in the 1970s, smoking was common. Like really common. Like to an extent that people under 40 have a tough time picturing.
Imagine that every restaurant you go to, you’re asked, “Smoking or non-smoking?” Imagine ashtrays on the tables at Denny’s, Burger King, McDonald’s. Imagine ashtrays inside department stores, and even people smoking on airplanes.
I remember when the first anti-smoking laws really began to come down. It was so controversial! The idea of banning people from smoking inside bars, restaurants, and even airplanes, was something that was met with a lot of pushback from many quarters.
Compare this to laws today regarding guns. In Arizona, they’re legal to bring into pretty much any business unless that business posts up a sign saying not to. They’re widely regarded as being integral to the American identity, and, much like with cigarettes, they’re backed by an extremely powerful lobby that makes it hard to pass laws regarding them. Hell, just like the tobacco lobby, the gun lobby is doing to do everything they can to prevent even doing research into how dangerous the product is.
But things changed, and the laws changed, and now cigarettes are banned in most civilized places. And what caused this to happen?
There was a shift in culture. People banded together and began to agitate against cigarettes being glorified in movies and TV shows, and began to put a stop to tobacco companies advertising in public places and sponsoring sports teams. The culture shifted, and soon the laws shifted, too.
And that’s what needs to happen with guns. We need, as a culture, to push them away, to stop making them so glamorous and wonderful. We need to remember that they’re instruments of death, designed only to kill.
That’s what it’ll take for gun control to happen. It’ll take us working together to make things like this culturally unacceptable:
In 29 seconds that’s about ten shots of people pointing guns at things. I mean really. Is that at all necessary? No.
Now I’m not stupid. I know this change will take time. Decades, most likely, before we see any real shift. But cigarettes weren’t made into objects of scorn overnight, and nor will guns be. But we should try.
So how do we do this? Stop seeing movies where the whole plot is all about people shooting at each other. Stop playing video games where the whole plot is all about people shooting each other (or, to be fair, shooting space demons). If we can lose our collective hard-on over such things, it’ll be a good start.
It’s at least worth a try.