In the aftermath of Columbine, Aurora, and other shootings, Colorado enacted common sense gun control measures. On March 20, 2013, Colorado Governor Hickenlooper (D) signed into law a bill that requires background checks and bans magazines that can hold more than fifteen rounds of ammunition.
The law is not without its detractors. Local sheriffs vow not to enact parts of the law. Some Republican lawmakers are furious and vow revenge at the polls in 2014. Magpul threatens to pull out of the state and relocate. Magpul, for the record, is based in Colorado, manufactures high capacity magazine holders, and employs more than 200 people.
Despite the fallout, and despite the fact that many no doubt believe the law violates their 2nd Amendment rights, the law is a sensible response to the senseless killings in Colorado. I say “sensible” and “common sense” because I want to take a second and compare guns to cigarettes. Prior to 2009, the tobacco industry and its allies managed to exclude cigarettes from any kind of meaningful regulation (cigarettes are now regulated by the FDA). Meanwhile, Americans died in ever-growing numbers from lung cancer and other smoking-related illnesses. And it was not just smokers; nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke died as well. After all, cigarette smoke is defined as a Class A carcinogen. In other words, smoking kills, kills millions every year, and if left unchecked will kill a billion people by the end of the next century.
Now, back to guns. Like cigarettes, guns are a legally product bought and sold on the open market. Like cigarettes, I would argue that guns are lethally dangerous. Just ask the four year old in Tennessee who accidentally shot his mom over the weekend. Like cigarettes, guns are not going away any time soon. And like cigarettes, why should the most powerful lobbying organization in the USA insist that their products are somehow above regulation, despite volumes of scientific and polling data pointing to the contrary?
If cigarettes are regulated because they are so dangerous, why should not guns? Since when do people need 100-round magazines to go hunting or to defend their homes? Since when should background checks on citizens be construed as unreasonable burden, especially if their purpose is to keep guns out of criminals or the criminally insane?
Granted, cigarettes are the only legal product that, when consumed exactly as intended, will kill you. Then again, guns have killed 3,334 people since the Newtown shootings in December 2012. It is time for all Coloradans to applaud Governor Hickenlooper and the Colorado Legislature’s determination to stand up to the NRA and to stand up for what’s right. And it is certainly time–indeed, it is past time–for Congress to do the same.
Slate and the Huffington Post contributed to this OpEd.