Is America Regulating The Right Things?

October 5th 2015

Kyle Jaeger

As the U.S. attempts to make sense of the recent mass shooting in Roseburg, Oregon—finding it increasingly difficult to reach a consensus on what to do to prevent these tragedies—the conversation has once again turned to the country's gun laws. On one side, you have people calling for comprehensive gun reform; on the other side, reform is generally seen as an infringement on the Second Amendment.

What makes the gun issue so contentious in America is difficult to peg. Feelings about reform run deep on both sides of the political fence, and though mass shootings happen more frequently in the U.S. than any other country in the world, these events have failed to prompt action on the part of lawmakers. Even seemingly reasonable reform proposals, such as improved background checks for gun purchases, have been met with resistance.

The comic below, created by Politico cartoonist Matt Wuerker, shows a series of controversial items that the U.S. has regulated, contrasting them with guns to illustrate the unique challenge that the country faces with passing reform legislation. 

Regulation comic

To be sure, there are regulations already in place for gun owners. But compared to other countries such as Australia—which banned semi-automatic rifles and oversaw a historic gun buyback program in 1996—the U.S. has relatively loose laws that are rife with loopholes. And unlike alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and motor vehicle regulation, gun reform seems to be one of the only regulatory issues that finds us unable to move forward.

That might be due, in part, to the lobbying efforts of the National Rifle Association, as this comic suggests. A man wearing a NRA hat and welding an assault rifle is contrasted with people enjoying a cigar, drinking, smoking weed, and getting into a car. "Yeah, but those things can kill you!" he contests.

But at the end of the day, better regulation of things that can cause harm to others—including tobacco and guns—should be viewed positively by the public. They allow people to do as they please, whether that involves smoking, drinking, or going to a shooting range, without putting others at risk. To continue to prevent gun reform from going forward runs counter to what we've traditionally done to make this country safer.