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Will NRA follow the path of Big Tobacco?

May 7, 2018

Christian Science Monitor, March 2018.

“There is some remarkable overlap between what the tobacco industry invented 30 years ago, and the strategy of the NRA and its supporters today,” says Mark Pertschuk, a longtime expert and organizer for both the anti-tobacco and anti-gun movements.

For instance, both the tobacco and gun lobbies have taken a muscular approach to combating criticism, including attempts to prevent government research on the health aspects of the issue in question, says Mr. Pertschuk, former longtime president of Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights and former legislative director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence…

Today, one of the most important similarities between what used to be known as Big Tobacco and the NRA is the use of state preemption laws to block any gun violence reduction laws at the local level, says Pertschuk.

Take Florida. Back in 1985, the state legislature passed a law controlling the power of local officials to restrict smoking in public places. Similarly, under Florida law today, city or county leaders who enact or enforce firearms legislation in their jurisdictions face state-ordained punishments that can include removal from office…

However, a focused effort by gun-violence prevention groups, harnessing the energy created in the wake of the Parkland shooting, might be able to get some of these laws repealed, says Pertschuk. That would open the way for more liberal city governments to tighten gun laws, even in red states.

“If they did that, it would catch fire like the revolution against tobacco,” he says.

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