By: Maxine Davey | Head Editor
September 26, 2019
On August 23, 2019, the first case of death by vaping was reported.
Less than a month and eight more vaping-related deaths later, the sale of most flavored e-liquids has been banned in New York and Michigan as an attempt to protect American youth from health issues stemming from the use of e-cigarettes. More states will likely follow, and the Trump administration has implied that legislation regarding the issue is high on its agenda. The Quell Underage Inhaling of Toxic Substances (QUITS) Act, for example, would increase federal taxes on e-cigarettes and outlaw flavored vaping and tobacco products.
Meanwhile, more than 10,000 people have died by gun violence in 2019 alone.
It is difficult to fathom the disparities in the ideology of the American government. Since America’s first mass shooting in 1949 (in which the perpetrating weapon was bought at a sporting goods store for $37.50), a common theme has emerged: inability of the government to effectively impact gun control.
No legislation followed the 1949 shooting. In fact, the next law to pass was not until 19 years later–the Gun Control Act of 1968–which imposed stricter regulations upon the firearms industry. Interestingly, this legislation took place the same year as two high-profile assassinations, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, perhaps implying that the lives of popular figures hold more value than those of the masses.
The fact is that time and time again, lives are lost by the dozens because our country lacks sufficient gun control. Although the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act in 1994 included an assault weapons ban until 2004, attempts to renew the Act have failed, and laws protecting gun manufacturing companies were passed in 2003 and 2005.
Children have died at Columbine, at Virginia Tech, at Sandy Hook, and at Parkland. Innocent young men and women were killed at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando and at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas. More recently, a semi-automatic rifle was turned on shoppers at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. These seven infamous incidents alone total up to 217 deaths- and our government is unable to take the necessary steps to prevent thousands of deaths per year.
And yet, legislative action is already taking place one month after the first death by vaping.
There are several explanations for this baffling situation.
First, the Bill of Rights does not mention e-cigarettes, but it does assure the “right to keep and bear arms.” The Constitution is so powerful and important to our country that even the slightest changes to its ideology come with years of national debate. As a result, the road to effective gun control legislation is fraught with obstacles. While the Constitution is core to our country’s values and beliefs, it’s time to consider the relevancy of the Second Amendment in today’s world.
In the late 1700s, the Second Amendment was written to ensure public safety, when ownership of a gun meant having the freedom to rely on oneself for protection. But times have changed: the invention of automatic weapons has drastically altered the weapons landscape, and owning such a weapon is in no way essential to preserving personal safety- rather, it enables mass murder. The United States government must amend this principle of the Constitution, as it now threatens our freedoms rather than protecting them. Children are no longer free nor protected when they go to school fearing for their lives.
Additionally, the National Rifle Association’s power and influence makes it extremely hard to generate movement in Congress. SCHS Senior Esther Malfouta, a speaker at San Clemente’s branch of the national school walkout for gun control in 2018, is passionate about this hypocritical legislation and its influences.
“Money trumps everything,” Malfouta said. “Only seven people have died from vaping, and suddenly, there’s a ban…that’s because all these e-cigarette companies don’t have lobbies as powerful as the NRA.”
And finally, a double standard seems to command thought around vaping and gun legislation. We are pursuing regulation because E-cigarettes have been found to be deadly to humans. When it comes to guns, however, some believe that the perpetrators of shootings, not the guns, are solely to blame.
“Adding more gun control will simply take guns away from those already respecting the regulations,” San Clemente High School junior Kaylee Conrad said. “The ones carrying out the shootings…are the problem and every American has the given right to a gun.”
The idea that e-cigarettes are tools for destruction and must be restricted, then, seems to contradict our country’s absence of gun regulation.
However, our country may be on the cusp of change, as Democratic candidates are making gun legislation a priority. Elizabeth Warren, for example, who recently passed Joe Biden in the latest nationwide Democratic popularity poll, has talked about an ambitious plan to “break the NRA’s stranglehold on Congress by passing sweeping anti-corruption legislation…so that our nation can no longer be held hostage by a group of well-financed extremists.”
In addition, the Background Checks Act of 2019 bill was passed by the House of Representatives in January 2019, signaling that members of our government are focused on fixing the issue. However, it is unlikely that the bill will be passed by a Republican-controlled Senate, and even more unlikely that President Trump will pass the law in that event.
“At some point, you have to wonder, ‘are we going to be next?'” Malfouta said.
As chilling as this thought may be, however, Malfouta views the future with optimism:
“I believe we have to elect the right people…we’re the next generation. We can do this!”