We’ve been talking on the show lately about a new dynamic in the movement for gun reform. Until now, the game has been for the NRA to absorb the public heat over gun violence. You’re supposed to hate NRA boss Wayne LaPierre, and not think too much about his manufacturing patrons. The strategy served to protect the status quo, until it didn’t anymore.
In the late 1970s, the Finns were consuming huge amounts of sodium, eating on average more than two teaspoons of salt a day. As a result, the country had developed significant issues with high blood pressure, and men in the eastern part of Finland had the highest rate of fatal cardiovascular disease in the world. Research showed that this plague was not just a quirk of genetics or a result of a sedentary lifestyle – it was also owing to processed foods. So when Finnish authorities moved to address the problem, they went right after the manufacturers. (The Finnish response worked. Every grocery item that was heavy in salt would come to be marked prominently with the warning “High Salt Content.” By 2007, Finland’s per capita consumption of salt had dropped by a third, and this shift – along with improved medical care – was accompanied by a 75 percent to 80 percent decline in the number of deaths from strokes and heart disease.)
In Finland, forcing the manufacturers to change led to healthier outcomes overall (pdf).
In the U.S., we’re now seeing gun makers protest new laws and the ideas of new laws about their wares, with threats to move their companies from states that pass new regulations and the refusal to sell products banned for civilian use to law enforcement. This debate over gun reform is still too new to know whether we’ll see change, and at what level of government. If the response from gun makers is any indication, the kind of change their fear is uncomfortably close. (H/t Vanessa Silverton-Peel.)
(On the show: NRA as heat shield.)