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What if we treated guns like opioids?

Jeffrey Denny

Guns kill about 100 Americans per day on average. So do opioids.

When guns kill people, we’re told to blame the shooter, not the gun. The gun is innocent. When opioids kill, we blame the pills, not the addict. The pill is the perp.

President Trump has declared opioid deaths a “public health emergency.” With guns deaths, he wouldn’t dare. Especially after the NRA schooled him for going squishy post-Parkland.

The Trump opioid plan would create new federal laws and regulations with stricter controls and penalties. Gun-rights supporters say we should enforce existing federal gun laws and regulations before we adopt new ones.

The $1.3 trillion spending bill Trump just signed provides significant new funds to address the opioid crisis. Trump’s base is incensed he caved on funding for his big Mexican wall. Nobody complained that he didn’t beef up gun law enforcement.

Trump wants the death penalty for the illegal trafficking of opioids, especially the most deadly. Gun makers, distributors and sellers who feed the illegal trafficking of cheap handguns that decimate families in urban war zones are pretty much safe from capital punishment.

The Trump opioid plan seeks to create an airtight national system for the feds to prevent the drugs from falling into the wrong hands. The NRA opposes an airtight national system for the feds to prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands. Tighter background checks lead to government banning and seizing all guns.

Selling, or even sharing, your prescription opioids can be a felony. Selling your guns on the internet or at trade shows, done right, can be perfectly legal.

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The NRA’s most militant opposes sensible gun controls because — slippery slope — soon enough the liberal government will outlaw all guns and then show up and seize their guns.

When it comes to guns, the feds become chillingly efficient and effective terminators, not a bunch of lazy inept overpaid tax-sucking bureaucrats in Washington dozing at their desks until their fat retirement checks kick in.

So gun owners need guns to protect their guns.

People who need prescription opioids for pain management don’t seem to oppose sensible opioid controls. They’re not worried that — slippery slope — the government soon enough will outlaw all opioids.

People who need pain medication also aren’t defending the deadliest opioids. They don’t complain that prescription medication is highly controlled. They don’t insist mass-killing opioids are really no different than other opioids. They don’t sneer at people who don’t know the molecular difference between dilaudid and fentanyl.

People who depend on prescription opioids don’t declare their inalienable right to buy or stockpile mass-killing opioids — for fun, sport, hobby, paranoia or fantasy — even if innocent people have to die.

We seem more sensible about opioids than guns.

Nobody ever declares things like, “opioids don’t kill people — people do.”

Or, “I’ll give you my opioids when you pry them from my cold, dead hands.”

Or, “If you outlaw opioids, then only outlaws will have opioids.”

Or, “thoughts and prayers,” “my heart goes out,” or “that’s not for now” because “it’s too soon to talk about opioid controls” and “we don’t just knee-jerk before we have all the facts and the data” when people die from opioids.

Or, “liberals demanding new opioid laws are politicizing the opioid tragedy.”

Or, “If someone’s decided, ‘I’m going to take this opioid,’ they will find a way to get the opioid to do it. A law isn’t going to stop this from happening.”

Or, attack the national media as “silent enablers, if not complicit co-conspirators” when news coverage suggests that opioids are to blame for opioid deaths.


As a communications professional, I’m impressed with the power of the simple clichés that gun militants parrot as a mic drop to end all discussion about guns.

“Cliché [is] language that declares itself beyond questioning,” notes Gary Greenberg, a practicing psychotherapist, critic of pop psychology, and author of “The Book of Woe, Manufacturing Depression, and The Noble Lie.”

Greenberg has written probingly on the topic of addiction. The dictionary definition of “addict” is a person who enjoys something excessively.

As family and friends know, you can’t reason with an addict in the grip of addiction. Addicts often are paranoid someone is going to take away what they’re addicted to. An addict will even attack children who plead to stop the insanity.

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Not to provoke, but: Are guns like opioids? Are they addictive?

Does using a handgun or shotgun to protect your home or self, or a sport rifle to shoot skeet, ducks, deer or targets at the shooting range, lead to stronger stuff? Like a military-grade semiautomatic AR-15 assault rifle — the heroin of personal weapons (also used for shooting up)?

If guns indeed are like opioids, then are we approaching the gun debate in the most sympathetic way? Is excessive, obsessive defense of guns, even mass killers, a cry for help? Should our hearts go out to the gun addict? Should we have a Gunaholics Anonymous?

Instead of blaming the NRA, which is just an enabler, and insulting gun defenders, should we focus — like with opioids — on better controlling both the supply and demand for guns, and identify treatments to help the gun addict?

I’m just putting it out there.

But I’m expecting some pretty angry, harsh push-back, name-calling, and pointing out my weak thinking and command of the facts, which likely is the case since I’m a stupid snowflake libtard.

So I understand the reaction. My heart goes out.

Jeffrey Denny is a Washington writer

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