In the late 1970s, cigarette smokers had free reign to smoke most anywhere they wanted in our country. However, the pressure was starting to build to limit smoking. It had become increasingly clear that smoking was a health risk, not only to those who smoked but to those breathed second-hand smoke. In those days, the smokers started to push back, claiming that they had the “right to smoke.”
I remember discussing the issue with a Navy friend, Carl Chin. Carl told me that his response to the smokers was that: “Your right to smoke ends where my nose begins.” I thought his assessment of the rights of smokers was spot on and it was in the best interest of Americans to place reasonable time, place and manner restrictions on smoking – we deserved clean air and the possibility of good health.
Thirty some years have passed here in the United States and smokers still have the right to smoke. However, smokers no longer have the right to shorten the lives of others.
Today, we face a similar situation. Now, we have a few gun owners who think they have the “right” to rapid-firing weapons, the very weapons that have been used to kill a host of innocent Americans. As Americans, we do not have the right to kill innocent Americans. As Americans, we do not have the right to arm people who kill innocent Americans.
I think it is timely to look at today’s gun situation with respect to yesterday’s smoking situation. A reasonable response to today’s issue might read: “Your right to rapid-fire weapons ends when other Americans pay with their lives because you considered only your rights.”
I think we can all agree that this is not a game we are playing. People are dying left and right – kids, firefighters, students and moviegoers to name a few. Certainly we all have legitimate feelings, concerns and opinions about regarding what, when and even if anything needs to be done to address the problems we face as a nation. However, I think our country is best served when we tone down the rhetoric. Sweeping statements like “the government wants to take away our guns” are unsupported and only serve to undermine the authority of our government and set the stage to deprive others of their rights.
I believe that 30 years from now, gun owners will still have guns. I also believe that because Americans are reasonable people, we will all be safer. Subsequently, there will be fewer tragic gun deaths and everyone will win as we pursue life, liberty and happiness together, with respect and dignity.