When visiting my local CVS I was pleased and deeply relieved to learn that the public now cannot buy Sudafed over the counter. Perhaps this restriction has been going on for a while. I didn’t know. Apparently Sudafed, when crushed, becomes an important ingredient in the production of meth, which, can be made with relative ease in one’s kitchen. Sudafed purchases are now strictly controlled.
Devin Patrick Kelley the man who killed 26 people – perhaps more – in a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, had previously been found guilty of spouse and child abuse, he had served time in prison and had been dishonorably discharged from the Air Force. In spite of this, he was able to gather a cache of weapons, including a Ruger AR-15. Had Kelley wanted to buy Sudafed, his license would have been examined, his Sudafed-buying history checked. Depending on that history, he might have been denied his Sudafed. But not his AR-15 assault weapon.
To kill, Kelley used a Ruger AR-15 variant, a gun carried by the American military. The Military. AR-15s were once covered by the assault weapons ban, but the ban was lifted in 2004 and remains so today. The New York Times (11/06) reports that since then, “…sales of AR-15s have surged.” AR-15s were the weapons of choice in the Aurora, Orlando, Las Vegas, Sandy Hook, San Bernadino and Sutherland Springs mass shootings.
Kelley is a toxin carrier. Gun crime is seen as a “law enforcement problem.” It’s not: it’s a public health epidemic, an epidemic that has been allowed to flourish, a disease that has killed more people than all of America’s wars combined. Those advocating for few or no restrictions on guns argue that unrestricted ownership is the price we pay for our freedom.
No, the opposite is true: we are becoming increasingly unfree. When there is no-safe-place – not in a church, a movie theatre, an elementary school, a rock concert – we cower, pull back from participating in civic life, hemmed in, increasingly isolated as we worry about protecting ourselves. Yes, lives are lost, but our civic fiber, that which holds us together, connects us, is weakened by this toxin.
I visited a few pharmacies here in my hometown of Falls Church, Virginia, to check out the Sudafed policies. At one, the Sudafed was boldly displayed about 10 feet behind the pharmacist, who herself stood behind a secure barrier. The procedure was the same in the two stores I visited. “We ask for your license. If it is valid, we sell you the Sudafed.” “Can I get as much as I want?” “No,” she replied, “my machine can deny you.” “Why would I be denied?” I asked. “If you have bought too much Sudafed, too often.” “Based on the number of pharmacies I’ve bought from?” “No, the number of milligrams you’ve purchased and how frequently.” A national registry. Restrictions. Controls.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott offered prayers, seeking “God’s guidance and God’s healing.” Prayers are needed. My heart breaks for the families, the church, the town, and yes, for all of us. Every solace from every quarter should be given, every embrace, every prayer for the grieving, devastated families, the shattered church community. But as our leaders pray, we also must demand courageous action from them. Their inaction allows murders to continue unchecked, the disease to continue and to flourish.
On one hand, congressional leaders have acted to protect our children and youth by limiting access to Sudafed. But when it comes to guns, the NRA has bought their silence, rendering them inert. Congress’ refusal to act arms the next attack.
The first role of government is to protect its citizens. It is not. It’s putting our fellow citizens in the crosshairs.