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Sunday, November 25, 2018

Romaine lettuce is too dangerous to sell. Guns are not

Gun violence kills 96 people every day.
Image result for romaine vs. gunsOn Thanksgiving Day 2018, Americans couldn’t buy romaine lettuce because of a CDC recall linked to an E. Coli outbreak. 

But even though gun violence is so mundane that a shooting at a mall in Alabama Thursday evening barely made national news, guns were still freely available at stores like Walmart across the country.

The Centers for Disease Control issued a food safety alert on Tuesday afternoon, urging Americans to refrain from eating, and retailers from selling, any romaine lettuce, “until we learn more about the outbreak.” Five people died from an E. coli outbreak in June, and nearly two hundred people got sick.

Food safety is certainly an important thing to get right, but the number of Americans who die from foodborne illness every year — 3,000 according to the CDC — is dwarfed by the 30,000-plus annual fatalities caused by guns in America.

On Thanksgiving Day, after the federal government had taken swift action to protect citizens from pathogen-laden romaine leaves, one male teen suspect in a Birmingham, Alabama mall allegedly shot and injured two others, including a 12-year-old girl. He was pursued by police, shot, and killed. Those were not the only casualties caused by guns that day.

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Every day in America, 96 people are killed by guns and hundreds more are injured, according to Everytown for Gun Safety. It’s not something that has to happen. America’s gun homicide rate is 25 times higher than that of other high-income countries.


“In the United States and elsewhere, acts of terrorism committed with firearms and other lethal means have changed the way people live, work, travel, and play,” wrote the authors of a study on global gun violence in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“In the United States, armed guards patrol some schools, and some politicians have advocated allowing teachers to carry guns. Although mass shootings and terrorist attacks are the most visible form of gun violence, they account for only a small fraction of the public health burden of firearm-related morbidity and mortality.”

Rep.-elect Lucy McBath (D-GA) on Friday tweeted a thread on Friday in which she remembered her son who was killed by a gun exactly six years before. She noted that because she was not the only person to lose a loved one to gun violence that day, she will be bringing her son’s legacy to Congress in order to fight for everyone to have the “basic security of safety.”

While firearm ownership within the context of a well-regulated militia is protected by the Constitution’s Second Amendment and there is no constitutional protection for any vegetable, much less lettuce, the Bill of Rights was written when slow-loading muskets made the idea of a mass shooting an improbable nightmare.

The technological upgrades in the almost 250 years since then have allowed carnage to unfold in emergency rooms across the country.

Shortly after the 2018 election, the NRA picked a fight with the nation’s “self-important anti-gun doctors” over gun violence, who they warned should “stay in their lane” and not push for gun control.

Since then, doctors have been tweeting back photos of the aftermath of their work on gun violence victims in trauma rooms with hashtags like “#thisisOURlane.”

Unfortunately, the ability of the public health sector to study gun violence as a public health issue has been hamstrung by the gun industry and their conservative allies in government, who support bans on federally funded research on the topic. Pathogens like E. coli, however, face no such resistance.