OP-ED: The True Danger in Schools: Guns or Juuls?

Camilla O’Keefe, Features Editor, Senior

In 1982, the government reacted to the deaths of 7 people in Chicago after Tylenol capsules were found to have been poisoned, with more than 100 law enforcement agents and 1,100 FDA employees working on the case; at the same time the government remained virtually silent as thousands of people were dying in a true epidemic: the AIDS crisis. You might be thinking: that was in the past, nothing like that could happen now. But, the past seems to be repeating itself. After 6 people died from vaping related illnesses earlier this year, the Trump administration passed a new policy banning flavored e-cigarettes. The FDA is outlining a plan to remove e-cigarettes and nicotine pods from the market after the recent deaths. Commenting on the proposal, Trump said, “We can’t allow people to get sick. And, we can’t have our kids be so affected.” Though the recent vaping epidemic is truly a dolorous event, it is worth questioning why the federal government feels that taking swift action is appropriate after a statistically small number of vaping deaths while it continues to drag its heels regarding the easy access to guns, the greatest cause of death among our nation’s children?

After the horrific tragedy of the Sandy Hook massacre, there were an additional 2,234 mass shootings, 290 of which were school shootings. Along with those statistics, there was an additional 2,522 deaths and 9,342 wounded persons. And yet, the U.S. still continues to have some of the weakest gun control laws in the world. As high as the number of mass shootings is, it shockingly only accounts for a sliver of all gun-related deaths in the country; the CDC found that about 40,000 people died due to gun-related deaths in 2016 alone. This is largely due to the ease with which it is to obtain a gun in this country. Studies carried out by Boston University have found that gun control laws, specifically state gun laws restricting who has access to guns, greatly reduce the rates of gun-related homicides by about 35 percent.

The obvious cannot be stated any more simply: access to guns is undoubtedly more deadly than easy access to vapes. So, why does the government focus more on them than guns? In a July 2018 Gallup poll, nine percent of U.S. adults said they “regularly or occasionally” vape – still below the 20 percent who said they “regularly or occasionally” smoke cigarettes. Compare that to the 39,773 people who died from gun-related injuries in the U.S., according to the CDC. Which seems to be the more pressing problem?

Now, don’t get me wrong. This isn’t a case of either/or — both problems are lethal. The question becomes, if they are both deadly, why are we rushing to action for one and ignoring the other?

Is it enough that children face “active shooter” drills every day? Is it enough that schools are adding security cameras, metal detectors and, in some cases, armed guards? Isn’t the simpler solution to make guns as inaccessible as we are trying to make Juuls?

Let’s not focus on one “crisis” completely while doing nothing about the wolf that’s already in the hen-house. It didn’t work in the 1980s and it won’t work now. It’s time for the government to take action and do something about the gun epidemic in our country. The “thoughts and prayers” given by our officials aren’t enough to fill the void of the hearts of countless families who have lost their children. Yes, it’s sad that six lives were taken due to vaping. Yes, there should be some sort of regulation regarding e-cigarettes. But how many more need to die in our country due to gun violence before the government takes action? The lies of those who say that attending to the issue of gun violence is less of a priority are as transparent as a puff of e-smoke… and just as deadly.