Busted Halo

Busted Halo contributors look at the intersection of faith and politics and examine the role of the Catholic Church in contemporary society.

Click this banner to see the entire section.

March 21st, 2013

Regulating Allergy Medicine as Bullets Fly

People participate in an anti-gun violence rally in New York. (CNS photo/Eduardo Munoz, Reuters)

People participate in an anti-gun violence rally in New York. (CNS photo/Eduardo Munoz, Reuters)

Washington is in the midst of Cherry Blossom season. In the next few weeks, more than one million tourists and locals alike will flock to the area along the National Mall, especially around the tidal basin near the Jefferson Memorial, to take in a view of the white and pink blossoms that appear on thousands of trees each spring. In 1912, the mayor of Tokyo presented 3,000 cherry trees to the people of the United States as a symbol of peace and friendship between the two nations. Today, there is a 16-day festival complete with a 10-mile road race, elaborate parties, photo classes and allergies. Oh, the allergies.

Washington, so the saying goes, is built on a swamp (never mind that just a tiny portion of the city, down around the U.S. Capitol, is actually built on filled-in land), which accounts for the sweltering humidity in summertime and proliferation of all sorts of seasonal allergens in the springtime. So to celebrate the pending arrival of cherry blossoms, I found myself in line at a CVS last night to pick up some much needed Sudafed.

When I approached the counter, I decided that I would stock up and buy a few boxes to avoid a repeat trip in a couple of weeks. The pharmacy tech asked me for my ID, scanned it to collect my personal data, and informed me that, in fact, federal law would prohibit my purchase of more than one box. Having anticipated this, I asked if we could just run two separate transactions. No, she told me. That would be against the law. Defeated, I paid for my one box and headed home.

Sudafed is locked behind the counter at the pharmacy, and I am asked to hand over my identification to have personal data collected, because the drug contains a small amount of chemicals that, in theory, could be used, in great amounts, to produce dangerous methamphetamines. Anyone who has seen the television series “Breaking Bad knows that it’s a dangerous process to create a dangerous drug.

“Bullet Control”

My experience at CVS is a hassle, sure, but I get the point. Our elected leaders responded to a public health and criminal crisis — the very dangerous manufacturing of homemade meth — by regulating items that could be used to cause harm.

Why then, I wonder, are bullets not regulated in the same way?

The comedian Chris Rock has a bit about regulating the cost of bullets. He says that bullets should cost $5,000 each, joking that such an investment would cause would-be shooters to be more judicious in how they use their ammo.

Kidding aside, it is a bit odd that allergy medicine is regulated more than ammunition. In fact, I can log onto Amazon right now and load up my cart with bullets — they’re even eligible for Free Super Saver Shipping! Guns, too, are fairly easy to obtain, depending on your locale. And if you live in a jurisdiction where they are a bit more regulated than cold medicine, you can head to an out-of-state gun show and avoid background checks altogether.

While only three months have passed since a crazed gunman in Newtown, Connecticut, murdered 20 schoolchildren in cold blood, the conversation around gun control has seemingly vanished. Now, some faith leaders, including Sr. Simone Campbell of NETWORK and Sr. Carol Keehan of the Catholic Health Association, are urging action in a new video:


What progress is being made on gun control legislation?

Small steps for sure, but there appears to be some movement on implementing universal background checks, closing the so-called gun show loophole, and perhaps even regulating the transfer of guns between family members.

USA Today reported last week that the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill to extend background checks. Earlier, the committee advanced legislation that would prevent a person authorized to procure a gun from then transferring ownership of the weapon to someone else. Still, the bills will need to receive enough votes in the full Senate before moving on to a more hostile House.

But the National Rifle Association appears ready to endorse a more bipartisan version of the bill that would require universal background checks, so long as gun sellers are freed from maintaining databases. This deal may allow Senate Republicans to back the bill and improve its chances in the House, reports NBC News. Whether or not progress can be made to that end is unclear, and some Democrats argue that without record keeping, the law would be toothless.

Yesterday, Sen. Harry Reid announced that an assault weapons ban would not be part of the Democratic proposal, a provision championed both by his colleague Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Vice President Joe Biden. The Vice President said he’s still hoping for an amendment that would outlaw the military-style weapons.

So, as time goes on and momentum is lost, what can people of faith do to make sure the conversation about responsible gun laws continues? Where is the common ground for those who believe in access to guns and those who think they should be heavily regulated? Surely the 12,000 individuals shot dead in the United States each year deserve something more than partisan and ideological bickering.

The Author : Michael O'Loughlin
Mike O'Loughlin is a writer living in Washington, D.C., covering religion, politics, and culture. In addition to Busted Halo, his writing appears in the Advocate, National Catholic Reporter, Foreign Policy, Religion & Politics, and America. He's also appeared on Fox News and MSNBC. Follow him on twitter at @mikeoloughlin.
See more articles by (49).
Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • http://twitter.com/MasterThiefEsq J.D. Locke

    One overreaching and questionably effective law passed in a fit of “moral panic” over inanimate substances does not justify another.

  • John Fox

    Michael, I believe your heart is in the right place but I must agree with Aubrey. Did Jesus advocate a ban on stones when confronted by the pharisees wanting to stone the woman charged with adultery? No, he went to “heart” of the matter!

  • http://twitter.com/MikeOLoughlin Michael O’Loughlin

    Thanks for reading and for the comment, Aubrey. You’re right: no ammo sales on Amazon. But ammunition is widely available for purchase on other websites, with a handful of geographic restrictions (IL, CA, MA, NY, CA, and DC). According to CBS News, James Holmes, the Aurora movie theater shooter, amassed a veritable arsenal of bullets through the unregulated online ammunition marketplace. McClatchy reported earlier this year that online sales of bullets operate with little government oversight, though some lawmakers are looking to change this in light of the many mass shootings.

    • http://www.facebook.com/aubrey.heusser Aubrey Heusser

      Thanks for making the correction. I don’t know who McClatchy is, but online ammunition sales are not unregulated, and there are lots of websites selling all sorts of things that people may or may not want, and that may become dangerous in the wrong hands – I don’t see that as a problem. James Holmes was not a criminal until he committed a crime – so he shouldn’t have been treated as one until then. You can’t prevent crazy or stupid people from doing crazy or stupid things; can’t even predict it a lot of the time. Preventing ALL people from doing normal things, just in case one of them turns out to be crazy or stupid or evil, is not the answer.

      But this: “Surely the 12,000 individuals shot dead in the United States each year deserve something more than partisan and ideological bickering,” I totally agree with. We, as a country, can do better, starting with promoting a culture of respect for human lives.

  • http://www.facebook.com/aubrey.heusser Aubrey Heusser

    You should do a little more fact checking before publishing. You cannot buy bullets on Amazon. Right now, rifle and handgun ammunition is hard to find even in person, for several reasons, and you have to show ID to buy it if you can find it. Instead of trying to restrict the purchases of law-abiding Americans, let’s enforce the existing laws and get the criminals off the streets. It’s already against the law to shoot someone – the people who do that obviously don’t care about that law. The people who want to buy bullets for hunting or target shooting or personal defense aren’t a danger – in fact they would be more of a danger if they can’t get practice ammo and improve their marksmanship. The people who want to buy Sudafed to treat their allergies should not be punished just because other people have misused it (and that misuse is already against the law also). Instead of adding yet another ridiculous law that won’t fix anything, let’s get rid of the other ridiculous laws that don’t fix anything. Meth is still made, even with the Sudafed locked up; people will still be killed, even with the bullets locked up (which they already are at most stores). Those actions harm others, and should be punished, but instead we’re punishing the innocent people, because it’s easier and makes us feel like we’re doing something. The problem is, doing something ineffective is worse than doing nothing.

powered by the Paulists