Senator Chris Murphy wants guns to be treated like cigarettes

Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut is continuing his attacks on the rights of gun owners.  In a recent interview, he declared that “guns are the new cigarettes,” suggesting that supporters of gun control have a long fight ahead of them in their goal of imposing new restrictions.

Murphy’s position on guns has been clear for a while now, and his latest statement is nothing new.  Attempts at comparing guns to tobacco products have been around for some time, illustrated by the Talking Points Memo article by Michael Maiello, titled, “What If We Made Gun Culture Uncool Like We Did Cigarettes?”  And gun control arguments are rarely ever new.  Perhaps this is merely a desperate effort at finding an argument that will work, but it’s not one that we can allow to pass without comment.

I’ve addressed the idea of false analogies before.  Guns and cars are not the same, and calls for regulating the two in the same manner lead us into the weeds of claim and counter claims about how cars are registered, but driver’s licenses are honored in all states.  But at least with cars there are some points of comparison.

By contrast, tobacco and guns have fewer similarities.  The basic fact is that there is no safe dose of tobacco.  Filters or not, ready made or roll your own, cigarettes or pipes or chew—it’s all bad for you.  And yet, I won’t advocate banning tobacco.  As long as you will generally keep the by-products in your own personal (and air) space, enjoy all you like.  I take the same stance on other substances.  Refrain from harming innocents, and you should be free to do as you please.

But the fact remains that unlike guns, cars, and alcohol, tobacco is always harmful.  Guns are in fact quite safe.  In a country with some 100 million gun owners and approaching a half a billion guns, the number of accidental deaths in a given year run around 600.   And that number is much lower now than it was in years gone by.  The difference between guns and tobacco on this point should be obvious, even to advocates of control.  A gun is used almost always in an intentional manner—homicide or suicide—whereas I’ve never heard of anyone taking up smoking for the purpose of developing lung cancer.

Another try at linking firearms with cigarettes is the assertion that gun manufacturers have lied to the American people in a way similar to tobacco companies did when they concealed the addictive nature and other health concerns of their products.  But while Maiello, for example, accuses a company like Smith & Wesson of lying by claiming that guns are useful for self-defense, there’s good reason to believe that firearms are used in the hundreds of thousands of times per annum by Americans to stop a violent attack.  And unlike the long list of ingredients in cigarettes, what’s in a firearm or ammunition has never been a mystery.

Murphy’s intention here is easy to figure out.  He wants gun owners to be viewed in the same way as smokers—treated as pariahs in the case of most of us, while the elites enjoy high-end product at their exclusive clubs.  It’s up to those of us in the gun community to remind the senator and his fellow advocates of control that rights are not only for the rich and famous and that guns are not cigarettes.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of

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