America’s gun laws are shot through with irony and illogic. Some would want you to believe that our national attitude regarding guns reflects a reverence for the Second Amendment. In reality, the gun laws passed—or should I say, not passed— in Congress and state legislatures are based less on ideology and more on the purely mercenary goals of the gun and ammunition manufacturers who are the true drivers of the NRA.
So, instead of a sane approach that acknowledges that gun deaths are a public health problem, we have an irrational patchwork of laws that often defy logic and do nothing to protect us. I’ve compiled some bullet points to illustrate the insanity of our gun laws:
- As we recently learned, via the Parkland tragedy, in Florida, you cannot buy a beer until you are 21. You can buy an assault weapon at 18.
- Florida and other states also have implemented strict ID requirements for voting, but none for buying an assault weapon.
- You must be 25 to rent a car. You can buy an assault weapon at 18 in many states.
- In Iowa and other states, you must be 21 to by a scratch-off lottery ticket. You can buy a rifle in Iowa at 18, without a state permit.
- State legislatures have passed laws allowing guns in schools, churches, bars and public parks, while at the same time barring guns from the legislative chambers of their state capitols.
- In most states, you need a license to: use a scissors to cut people’s hair or trim their toenails; use a nail file to perform a manicure or pedicure; use a razor to shave a customer; use your fingers to braid someone’s hair. But you do not need a license to wield a weapon that, used for the purpose for which it was designed, can kill multiple people.
- In many states, you can bring a gun into a bar, but you cannot serve alcohol without a state license.
- In many states, under open carry laws, you can brandish a weapon openly, but if you are driving a car, you cannot have an open container of alcohol with you. By law, your child must be secured in a safety seat, but you can have a loaded gun concealed in the glove compartment or the console.
- Federal product-safety laws mandate safety standards for baby strollers and cribs, to prevent them from pinching a child’s finger or enabling a child’s head to get stuck between the crib slats. Similar protections—such as trigger locks on guns—are not required for guns in a bedroom drawer, in a purse, or in a closet.
- You can sue McDonald’s for serving too-hot coffee; you can sue a toy manufacturer, a food company or a lawn-mower company if you are accidentally injured by their product. You can sue a doctor or a hospital for malpractice if they prescribe the wrong dosage. Gun manufacturers and gun stores are protected, by federal law, from lawsuits stemming from injuries caused by their products.
- You need a state license to perform a healing massage, but—in many states—you do not need a permit to carry a gun into a spa.
- Right-wing, anti-LBGTQ fanatics consider the act of selling a wedding cake to a gay couple as tantamount to participating in the wedding, thus violating their religious “rights.” Selling a gun to someone who uses it to kill people is not seen as participating in murder.
- If you want to fly a drone or a model airplane, you must register it with the Federal Aviation Administration. No federal registration is required for buying or shooting a gun.
- After a would-be terrorist was found to have a non-functioning bomb wired into his shoes, the Department of Homeland Security mandated that all travelers have to remove their shoes for inspection at TSA checkpoints. After mass murderers armed with military assault weapons succeeded in killing of hundreds of people, laws regarding AR-15s and other semi-automatic weapons remained unchanged.
- Pharmacies and supermarkets limit the number of Sudafed cold tablets you can purchase. You can buy as much ammunition for your handguns, rifles and assault weapons as you want to.
- Supermarkets now keep Tide detergent pods locked up, to protect children from swallowing them. After a scare in which Tylenol tablets were found to be contaminated, drug manufacturers were required to package over-the-counter and prescription drugs in “child-proof” packaging. Congress and state legislatures continue to reject the notion of mandatory gun locks that could prevent children from accidentally discharging guns.
This list is far from comprehensive—unfortunately. I welcome additions that further demonstrate the hypocrisy and madness. We live in a country where even the deaths of 20 first-graders don’t move the needle even one centimeter on gun laws. This is just plain crazy.