Celebrating a tool of death

We heavily regulate smokes and booze to minimize as much as possible their threat to society. Why shouldn't the same thinking apply to guns?

That doesn't mean anyone should or will be taking away people's handguns and rifles. We don't do that with cigarettes or liquor.

But just as the goal of much of our tobacco and alcohol regulation focuses on keeping these products out of the wrong hands and preventing them from being misused, regulation of firearms needs to focus on reducing gun violence.

That's the key issue here — or it would be if gun supporters would acknowledge as much.

"The problem is not gun violence," said Hunter. "The biggest problem is that we live in a culture that is suffused with violence."

Another problem, he said, is that people who end up being "lone gunmen" are frequently taking "psychiatric drugs."

"We're overdosing people on these drugs," Hunter said. "It adds to the violence."

I'm no expert in sociology or psychiatry, but I do know that when a product is linked to multiple deaths and injuries, the solution typically involves how such products are sold, and how they're used by consumers.

I mean no disrespect to Hunter or other gun enthusiasts, and I think it's great that they take freedom and liberty so seriously, even if their concern may border on paranoia. But guns, like cigarettes and alcohol, have a track record of causing harm to their users and others.

The Obama administration, in a not-very-tyrannical fashion, is proposing modest steps intended to provide more transparency to firearm sales and limit access to specific weapons whose sole purpose is to kill people.

If we were talking about an unsafe power tool or baby crib, officials would stand firm on their responsibility to protect the American people. When it comes to guns, there's a belief among some that this product is sacrosanct and that no amount of regulation is tolerable.

Hunter told me that any such moves would lead inevitably to complete prohibition, just as they once did with alcohol.

He needs to look around and realize that liquor is legal and available; cigarettes are legal and available. But they're regulated to improve the public welfare. No one would argue that, absent such regulation, the country would be better off.

It's the same with guns.

Surely we can all appreciate that.

David Lazarus' column runs Tuesdays and Fridays. he also can be seen daily on KTLA-TV Channel 5 and followed on Twitter @Davidlaz. Send tips or feedback to david.lazarus@latimes.com.

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