What If We Treated Guns The Same Way We Treat Juuls?

            I remember getting a startling news notification on my phone while hurrying to my next class on February 14, 2018. Looking down, I saw the headline that said 17 were killed, and 17 were left injured in a shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida. Remembering it now, I’m ashamed to say that I slipped my phone in my pocket, probably worrying more about making it to AP English on time rather than taking in what I’d just seen. It wasn’t until I left school and went to work that I really realized what I’d read, and the magnitude of it all.

            In an era where students practice lockdown drills more frequently than fire drills, it’s hard to realize just how normalized these have become. I remember telling my mom as a 7th grader that we’d had a lockdown drill in class, and exactly what we would do if it were to ever happen; I also remember the shock on her face just at the fact that this was such a real thing. There seemed to be the same string of events after each tragedy: a wave of activism and marches, only to be washed away in wake of the next tragedy. However, after the murder of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, there seemed to be a surge in the fight to end violence in places of learning, worship, and work. Students, parents, and teachers across the country decided that enough was enough.

            Another monumental event happened in 2018: the FDA decided to halt the sale of various e-cigarette flavors in stores, leaving only mint, tobacco, and menthol flavors available. By taking away the different flavors of e-cigarettes, which were marketed toward teens, the FDA aims to cut down on adolescent nicotine addiction. While these products were originally marketed as ways to curb cigarette addiction, it is now estimated that those who use an e-cigarette of any kind are seven times more likely to start smoking cigarettes. This puts people at risk for myriad health problems, but most prominent is the threat of cancer. Lawmakers have banned many flavors of e-cigarettes to minimize the possibility of young people contracting fatal health problems.

            Let me note that I’m not advocating for or discouraging the FDA’s ban on flavored e-cigarettes; instead, I’m asserting that saving a life from a mass shooting is more important than banning a juul pod. This ban shows that government officials care about addictions that are killing people slowly, which is a step in the right direction, but giving it precedent over guns that are killing countless people rapidly defies common sense.

            If the goal is to minimize premature deaths, why aren’t the nearly 40,000 lives taken too early from gun violence in 2018 alone being given the same recognition as e-cigarettes? Why is it just as easy for an 18 year old to obtain a gun as it is for them to buy nicotine? Why are guns, which we know are killing children more than nicotine addiction, still available to purchase? If we treated guns the same way that juuls and other e-cigarettes are being treated, it would be harder to purchase them, therefore cutting down on inhumane acts of violence. No one should ever have to enter a school and be worried about whether they will leave or not. No one should ever have to practice drills in the event of a school shooting. If we treated guns with the same fear and cautiousness that e-cigarettes are being treated with, hopefully 40,000 in a single year is the highest number of gun-related deaths that will occur in our country.

Image Credit: Pacific Standard