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Let's Make Guns as Cool as Smoking Cigarettes

"Patch In" columnist Heather Borden Herve draws parallels between the public awareness campaign about dangers of smoking and the concurrent push for tougher gun legislation — and suggests what you can do to help.

Remember when everybody smoked?

Think about the imagery associated with smoking, making it cool, as admirable and desirable as the rugged American cowboy.

According to an op-ed published in The New York Times, the rates of Americans who smoke have dropped dramatically since the 1960s — less than 20 percent of American adults smoke now, and it was more than twice as much fifty years ago. What’s more, the rate amongst younger smokers aged 18-24 is on the decline as well.

A lot of that happened because of aggressive marketing and awareness campaigns about the dangers of smoking cigarettes, both to smokers and victims of second-hand, “passive” smoke. There are now graphic warnings on cigarette packages; who can forget the advocacy ad campaigns picturing bodies lying on the New York City streets outside of tobacco company headquarters, representing the hundreds of thousands of people who died each year from smoking?

These efforts helped tremendously when cigarette manufacturers had to admit to Congress their efforts to conceal the dangers of the products they manufacture.

Know what else helped? Legislators heard from their constituents, and that made them feel brave enough to stand up to lobbyists and campaign donations from the big money tobacco industry.

Now if we can only get similar campaigns to hit hard at the gun lobby and gun industry. For it’s clear that the parallels run deep — the gun industry trades on making billions of dollars at the expense of 30,000 people who die each year due to gun violence, including eight children in the U.S. every day.

Supporters of laws aimed at making it harder to access military-style guns and ammunition were heartened when New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the SAFE Act, strengthening his states already strong gun laws. Clearly a threat to the big business of gun manufacturing, the NRA has stepped up its attacks on Cuomo, even though the law does not require gun owners to turn in their assault weapons, only register them. It did limit the sale of magazines to seven rounds within the state of New York, and strengthened background check requirements, among other changes.

Word coming out of Hartford isn’t as encouraging. Legislators had promised that legislation on gun safety and related security issues would be quick to come following the gun massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown on Dec. 14, 2012. The self-imposed deadline of the Newtown task force has come and gone, with little to show but frustration with — and amongst — Connecticut lawmakers.

So, too, is frustration growing with Congress amongst supporters of stronger, more comprehensive gun laws. Clearly, legislators who have been traditionally supported by NRA lobbyists are getting braver in their resistance, let alone less worried about how it look to voters as time passes since the shooting in Sandy Hook.

Case in point: Sen. John McCain answered a question about an assault weapons ban from a woman whose son was killed in the Aurora movie theater shooting. While he did express his sympathy to her, that condolence was followed by him saying, “I can tell you right now you need some straight talk. That assault weapons ban will not pass the Congress of the United States.”

[Author's note: While there’s been some back-and-forth in the press coverage of how video editing portrayed the Senator during the exchange and exactly how rude McCain was or wasn’t, I’d argue that no matter what, the parent of a gun massacre victim deserves more than the usual amount of restraint and courtesy, and I think the full clip shows the Senator was less respectful than he could have been.]

On March 13, there will be an event in Washington, DC, called “Moms Take The Hill,” led by a growing grassroots organization, Moms Demand Action. Their full title is actually “Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America,” and their mission emphasizes just that — common sense. They want to appeal to lawmakers to act on three very simple solutions to address rising gun violence in the United States, according to their website:

  • Ban assault weapons and ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds
  • Require background checks for all gun and ammunition purchases
  • Report the sale of large quantities of ammunition to the ATF and ban online sales of ammunition

If you can’t make it to Washington on the 13th, there’s still a way for you to get involved. Cut out and decorate eight paper dolls, representing the eight children who are shot and killed in America every day. There is a concerted social media campaign as part of this, to flood legislators emails and offices with images of the paper dolls, and you can find out more details by clicking here.

I began this column by writing, “Remember when everybody smoked?” Wouldn’t it be great if someday I could write a column that starts, “Remember when it was easy to buy a gun?”

Hopefully it won’t take as long as 50 years to see the gun violence rates drop as dramatically as smoking rates did.

bordwithbs March 05, 2013 at 12:20 PM
A noble effort. Too many children are killed and maimed by the inaction of our lawmakers to curb gun violence. They are the ones to be held accountable for the deaths.
Anita March 06, 2013 at 12:36 AM
ENOUGH ABOUT THIS TOPIC ALREADY! SHEESH!
bordwithbs March 06, 2013 at 03:19 AM
And what about the rights of the majority to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Some things deserve our attention such as the absolute madness of some of us who believe that having a powerful weapon gives us freedom. It, in fact, does the opposite, as the next more powerful weapon can destroy ours. The most powerful weapon is not to have one and not to be controlled by fear and paranoia. That is freedom, not the act of some sniveling coward who shoots kids with his mother's Bushmaster and the shrill voices of those who defend him by proxy.
bordwithbs March 06, 2013 at 03:21 AM
Move on. It's been a couple of months already? Yeah, why continue to be uncomfortable.
Sandra March 06, 2013 at 01:02 PM
Bordwithbs-Did you mention that Lanza was mentally ill? Sniveling coward? A coward is a person who lacks courage in facing danger. His intent was to cause devastation. His "courage" (fearlessness) came from the fact that he was smart enough to choose a gun free zone knowing he could cause the most harm without interruption. He faced it head on because he knew he would be in control. Freedom for the rest of us is knowing the politicians are changing the laws that will prevent another Lanza from walking the streets without the proper care.
bart March 06, 2013 at 07:13 PM
THE TRUE FACT: As long as you have criminals that kill family's for no reason other then robbery YOU NEED TO BE PREPARED. Or live like a ostrich with your head....... well wherever but your shoulders and hope it won't happen here because it's a NICE BLOCK,TOWN, PARK as after the incident people cry out melancholy, People are a dangerous unpredicable revengeful hatefull loving caring caniving breed I can go on.Heance the need for things you don't like but may need someday GOOD LUCK
Charlie March 06, 2013 at 09:37 PM
All - a Second Amendment Rally will occur at Hartford, Monday, March 11, 10-4. http://ccdl.us/component/content/article/38-news/240-lobby-day-at-the-capitol Pass the word.
bordwithbs March 07, 2013 at 03:38 AM
The fractured thought process for Adam Lanza included his cowardice, along with his mental derangement. He did not attack equals, with equal strength, in his case with his mother's weapons. Had he done so, he would have met a swift and decisive end. As far as his being "smart", I disagree. He acted against children in the most violent manner possible, giving them no chance to defend themselves, with his demonstrating no feelings or conscience. If this is "smart" on his part I take exception to your definition. Smart would be his realizing that he was insane, and his reaching for help. Adam Lanza was the antithesis of smart. He was a cowardly killer.
bordwithbs March 07, 2013 at 03:42 AM
You make no sense. In a society we all give up some freedoms for the greater good. That's called civilization. What you suggest is that we live in anarchy. Keep your blood pressure up. There are more "we's" than "you's".
bordwithbs March 07, 2013 at 03:51 AM
I am a gun owner. I control my weapons. I defend the right of others to have guns. I do not need to endure your inane threats, and I suggest that you examine your position(s) with a clear eye and a steady hand in the future. When you speak from the "we" you become the threat, and not a part of the solution. I would advise you not to take that course. You are not the majority.
Sandra March 07, 2013 at 01:17 PM
bordwithbs-"you make no sense" is not a response that encourages debate and discussion. You said you admire blogger Heather Borden "beyond words". These were some of her words. "I’d love to see the fringe right as well clamoring for ways to end the killing of inner-city, mostly minority youth due to gun violence, the same way they clamor for ‘unborn children.’ In the same way they line up outside abortion clinics and protest funding for Planned Parenthood using imagery of aborted fetuses, I’d like to see them holding signs showing what the murdered children of Sandy Hook looked like..." I have no respect for Heather who would accuse those of us who are pro-life and defend the 2nd amendment somehow do not care about the precious children killed in the Newtown tragedy. The sane pro-choice crowd are responsible for 55 million deaths of innocent babies.. The mentally ill Lanza killed the Newtown babies.
bordwithbs March 07, 2013 at 03:12 PM
I'd love for all who do not want babies to practice safe sex and eliminate the choice that I am sure is so difficult to make for anyone, however I do not encapusulate my beliefs into the kind of onemindeness that you seem to do. There are solutions to problems if we begin to listen to reason, not hyperbole, hysteria and shouting that isn't heard at all. I welcome your thoughts, but not the one-brush approach that seems to be your style that make no sense.
bordwithbs March 07, 2013 at 03:17 PM
...and he killed with an assault rifle
Sandra March 07, 2013 at 03:20 PM
Bordwithbs-you said if Lanza had attacked his "equals" in strength he would have met a swift and decisive end. A gun free zone is no equal to the likes of Lanza.
bordwithbs March 07, 2013 at 06:56 PM
g, your comments are so fractured and disjointed that I am concerned for your mental health. My opinions are not issued lightly, and the "friend who knows a state police officer who claims Adam didn't even use his Bushmaster" smacks of the surreal denial theorists who have become a shameful addendum to the problem. It does not add to a legitimate discussion of what is best for our society. Perhaps a study of Socrates would lend some insights into how civilization might work.
bordwithbs March 08, 2013 at 01:05 AM
The "right" to smoke??? Are you nuts? No one tells you you can't smoke, but it is unhealthy to smoke where others are forced to breathe your smoke ridden air. The common good of all is served when we are protected against harm. That's civilization. Of course, you can go out into the woods all by yourself and smoke yourself to death. Go on, have a ball. I'm sure the wildlife will take care of your carcass......
Sandra March 08, 2013 at 03:36 PM
bordwithbs-who said I do not want babies to practice safe sex? Not so sure the decision is so difficult either when it was a celebrated topic at the DNC convention basically asking for abortion on demand. Yippee! NY Mayor Bloomberg has a campaign to push against teen pregnancy. Planned Parenthood said “The latest N.Y.C. ad campaign creates stigma, hostility and negative public opinions about teen pregnancy and parenthood rather than offering alternative aspirations for young people.” We've poured millions into education. Isn't this what Heather is trying to do shame people into doing what she wants them to do? Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/proper-care-teen-moms-article-1.1281465 I am bord with u BS- you obviously know it all and are not truly interested in having a discussion.

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