I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s in a loving household with wonderful working class parents—who smoked in the house and the car with me and my sister breathing daily their second-hand smoke. My parents would have done anything for us, including risking their own lives for our safety.

Yet they smoked right there beside us, filled our living room and our cars with their tobacco smoke.

It seems nearly impossible now for us to comprehend how it took the U.S. public so long to come to grips with the slow and insidious harm tobacco products have incurred on both users and innocent bystanders, including children.

It seems nearly impossible now for us to comprehend that we were somehow shocked to discover that Big Tobacco systematically lied to the U.S. public—at the expense of adults and children alike—all in the name of profits off tobacco products.

In 2012, most of the U.S. has found a compromise: Tobacco use has not been banned, but tobacco use has been regulated so that the least harm possible occurs, and that harm lies primarily with the adults who appear to choose it.

Tobacco purchases are regulated by age. Public smoking, especially in restaurants and other indoor areas, has been banned in many places. But the individual rights of an adult to choose to smoke remains intact, as preposterous as that choice clearly is in the light of the evidence.

Lung cancer and emphysema are not nearly as dramatic as mass shootings. 24-hour news stations do not set aside all programing for days to cover the costs of tobacco use.

In ten or twenty years, will we look back with the same sort of bafflement regarding how we are being used daily by the NRA and the gun industry?

Weapons of Mass Profit

Rick Hess, advocate for free market education reform, has posted a sincere concern for the “commercialization of tragedy” he has witnessed surrounding the most recent mass shooting at an elementary school.

In a culture that treasures competition and the Invisible Hand of the free market above everything else—yes, even above the Second Amendment—24-hour news networks must commercialize tragedy (be it a natural or human-made tragedy) in their quests for market shares, the ever-shining allure of profit.

Right be damned if a nickel is to be made.

This is the world we have created, this is the world we have tolerated.

In its origin, the Second Amendment was a declaration about freedom; when drafted, this founding principle recognized the direct relationship between guns and freedom. But in the intervening years, the gun itself, or even ownership of a gun, has become less and less connected to any person’s freedom—just as “I can smoke in this restaurant if I damn well please” once resonated in a way it no longer does.

Just as Big Tobacco and the lure of profit off tobacco—regardless of the deaths and illnesses associated with tobacco—stood between Americans and rational responses to smoking, overcoming our fetish for cigarettes, for example, the NRA and the gun industry (inseparable, in fact) stand between Americans and rational responses to gun ownership, confronting our fetish for guns.

Big Tobacco was not fighting to protect any American’s right to smoke, and the NRA is not fighting for any American’s Second Amendment rights.

The NRA is using the Second Amendment, and all NRA members, to protect the blood money being raked in by the gun industry.

Listening to Charlton Heston or Ted Nugent about Constitutional Rights is like listening to Al Gore about climate change. Celebrities are part of the commercialization, not evidence of anything credible.

The NRA’s stranglehold on America is our next Big Tobacco, and we must pull back the curtain of commercialization and face the facts.

Recommended Reading

The Geography of U.S. Gun Violence


“The importance of gun control cannot be minimized. The state level is the appropriate level to examine this. And our previous state level analysis found gun deaths to be significantly lower in states with stricter gun control laws. We found substantial negative correlations between the rate of gun deaths and states that ban assault weapons, require trigger locks, and mandate safe storage requirements for guns.”

On Guns, America Stands Out, Charles Blow