A friend shared this meme on Facebook. I have a few minutes free on my lunch break, so let’s go through it, shall we?
- Tobacco is regulated and taxed by states and and the federal government. It is illegal in every state to provide tobacco products to anyone under 18 (or older in some states). In the 1990s, cigarette companies were successfully sued by smokers for the grievous harm their products cause, and after losing several suits those manufacturers agreed to a class action settlement that today funds massive advertising campaigns meant to deter Americans from consuming tobacco products.
- Medical Errors: In no state is it legal to practice medicine without a license from the state government, which require extensive education to obtain. Doctors must renew accreditation on a regular basis, and carry heavy liability insurance because they can be sued by patients and their families as a result of malpractice.
- OSHA is a government agency whose job is to inspect workplaces and ensure they comply with government regulations meant to increase safety. Many states have additional regulations and enforcement bodies. Private residences carry liability insurance because anyone injured in an accident can sue the property owner, especially if apparent negligence contributed to the injury.
- Alcohol is even more strictly regulated than tobacco, and in many states and localities it is illegal to be publicly intoxicated. It is illegal to depict people consuming alcohol on publicly-owned airwaves (most major networks) and the sale of alcohol is strictly regulated in every state. Alcohol is taxed by state and federal governments, and a portion of those taxes go to deterrent programs aimed at reducing alcohol consumption; in almost all cases bars and alcohol retailers must prominently display signage warning of the health risks of alcohol, and a person who provides alcohol to a minor, or forces another to consume alcohol against their will, can be charged with criminal misconduct and sued in civil court.
- Motor Vehicles must be registered with the state, and that registration renewed regularly. Drivers must be licensed to operate motor vehicles in every state, a process that requires demonstrated familiarity with state rules and regulations around safe operation. Drivers must carry liability insurance, and a driver who operates a motor vehicle dangerously may be subject to criminal prosecution. Drivers may only operate motor vehicles in public in compliance with state regulations, and the type of vehicle a driver may operate is determined by his or her license.
- Poisons like household cleaners and paints must, by law, carry warnings about their health risks. Many states regulate the way such products must be packaged (for instance, they must include a child-proof cap) and sold by retailers. Corporations that stock poisonous products must keep a careful inventory and observe government regulations around safe handling and storage. Many chemicals that have historically been used as cleaning products are illegal for sale under state and federal laws.
- lllegal drugs are, well, illegal, and more than two million Americans are currently incarcerated or on parole or probation because of consumption, possession, or sale of illegal drugs. Federal and state governments have whole agencies dedicated to enforcing drug laws, and the US as a whole spends approximately 30 billion dollars each year enforcing drug laws. Legal drugs (like pharmaceuticals and some over-the-counter medications) are regulated for sale, and may only be dispensed by professional pharmacists who are accredited and licensed by state governments. Doctors who enable patients to abuse prescription drugs can be prosecuted as criminals and sued in civil court.
- Falls: Government regulations like building codes require measures in an effort to prevent falls, such as railings, non-slip floors, and warning signs. Federal and state agencies, like OSHA, enforce regulations meant to reduce the incidence of falls in the workplace. Under state laws, property owners must take reasonable measures to prevent falls or they may be sued in federal court or (in extreme cases) prosecuted for criminal negligence.
- Non-firearm homicides in fact represent, according to actual FBI statistics, less than a third of all homicides. Baseball bats, along with hammers, clubs, and other blunt objects, account for less than 4%, while firearms account for 67.8%, or slightly more than a third. This baseball bat fact is either a gross error, or an open attempt at distortion. Nevertheless, some common and dangerous non-firearm items whose sale is regulated under federal and state governments include: Fireworks, spray paint, gravity knives, explosives, fertilizers, industrial cleaning products, bladed collectors items (like swords and “throwing stars”), and matches and cigarette lighters.
- Which brings us to firearms, the one “Notable Killer,” according to this chart, about which the US government does almost nothing. In fact, in recent years state and federal governments have rolled back many regulations around the sale, possession, and use of firearms. Americans are free to provide firearms to children and encourage their use. They may purchase an unlimited quantity of firearms, in some cases without so much as a background check, and are not required under any federal or state law to store their firearms in any specific way–child safety locks, for example, are not legally required. A person who is irresponsible with their firearms cannot be sued for negligence, and gun owners are not in any state required to carry liability insurance in case of accidental (or deliberate) harm to another. There are no publicly-funded ad campaigns warning Americans of the dangers of owning and operating firearms, nor are firearms required to bear labeling warning consumers of their inherent danger.
If the aim of this chart is to point out that guns, alone among America’s top causes of death, lack significant government regulation aimed at ensuring public safety, then I think it’s making a strong case. But I somehow doubt that’s the intention here.