Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Freedom to be stupid

I am shaking my head at one of Oregon’s state representatives. Rep. Greenlick has submitted a bill (HB 2077) in the Oregon House that would make nicotine a class III controlled substance.

This bill, from what I can see, makes tobacco products illegal unless you get a doctor’s prescription for it. This creates a number of problems including the fact that many doctors probably won’t prescribe something that is harmful to the patient.

The reason that I’m shaking my head is the fact that an elected representative would submit such a bill. We saw what happened during prohibition: making a legal product illegal to stop its use. No one seriously argued that alcohol was good for you, but the end result was that it was unacceptable to tell Americans that they didn’t have the freedom to be stupid.

While I’ve never been a smoker and have actively encouraged my children to never smoke, it isn’t my place to tell other adults that they can’t smoke. It isn’t a moral issue, it isn’t a societal issue, it is a personal issue to do something that may harm you.

Those who think that this is good because smoking is bad will also find other things that are bad. We’ve heard of people and groups that want to ban or tax certain foods because they may make us fat or ban or tax certain activities because they may cause injuries.
America is a place that offers freedom to the individual. Banning actions that will harm others makes sense, banning or taxing things out of existence that may harm you infringes on your freedom.

Politicians who seek attention through bills like 2077 may not believe that it has much of a chance to pass, but I wonder if they are trying to desensitize the average citizen to the threat of the loss of freedoms.

This bill likely has no chance to see the light of a committee room, but the danger is in how many people think, “Tobacco is bad, maybe this is a good idea.” The question you need to ask yourself is: does freedom include the right to do something that isn’t wise? If freedom gives you the right to do something silly, or even stupid, what self-respecting politician would propose taking that right from you or other Americans?

I have a hunch that each of us has slightly different opinions of what is silly, dignified, stupid, or smart - and that in itself is the essence of freedom. We don't need elected officials deciding for us!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Gun Control or Debt Control?

Mr. President, why are you making an emotional appeal on gun control when we have an out of control spending problem?

I read the speech that you and Vice President Biden gave on January 16. There is a lot of emotion in your comments, both about the tragedies our nation has suffered and in animosity toward those who may differ in political opinion.

You should know that the policy of the National Grange is simple and direct: “The National Grange opposes any additional gun control laws until the present laws are strictly enforced. We oppose legislation restricting the rights of citizens to bear arms for protection of their families, property and common defense, with the exception of assault weapons manufactured and designed specifically for military use and stun guns. We favor severe and mandatory sentences, including incarceration, for anyone using firearms while committing a crime.”

Our organization is made up of mostly middle-class people who work hard to improve their communities. We are not nuts or extremists, just common people doing our best to take care of our families. We believe in common sense solutions, not political reaction.

Your proposal to increase background checks to include private sales ignores common sense. Either it will cost taxpayers or the buyer or seller money (in essence, another mandatory tax or fee) or it will change law-abiding citizens into criminals. Yet few of these horrendous crimes are committed by those who legally acquired the weapon.

Your proposal to ban assault weapons seems a bit dishonest. The term “assault weapon” was defined by the Assault Weapons Ban in 1994 and did not adhere to any mechanical or engineering specification. Military assault weapons have clear mechanical and engineering specs and are already highly regulated and the average citizen cannot own one without significant licenses and permits. In reality, your proposal to ban assault weapons once more will only ban weapons that some deem “big and scary” and will have little to do with their designated use or function.

We stand in support of enforcement of our current laws on firearms, but your speech smacks of a bit of the old philosophy, “never let a good crisis go to waste.” Our nation is threatened by the very real long-term problem of overspending and a rapidly escalating debt.

We join with you, and every average American, in shock over the shootings in Colorado, Connecticut, Oregon, and Wyoming. You may have inadvertently missed mentioning the Wyoming shooting because it was an act committed with a bow.

However, let’s not attack the second amendment, especially when the future of our nation is at serious risk due to unrestrained spending. Mr. President, please take this opportunity to unite and lead our nation, not to engage in partisan rhetoric.