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.
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. 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.