Smith: Legal drugs more deadly than guns

About a month ago, I commented on the futility of attempting gun control.

I wrote that "there are 270 million privately owned firearms in the U.S. The U.S. is the world leader in both the number of privately owned guns and, more telling, the rate of gun ownership, which is 88.2 guns per 100 people.

"Based on these and other statistics, any discussion of school safety in the event of the appearance of a shooter must include the acknowledgment that the easy access to guns in America is here to stay."

The futility of trying to close this barn door long after the horses have escaped has either slipped the minds of those in Washington, D.C. or they chose to ignore it. After the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn., the administration was forced to wear its righteous indignation hat and go through the motions of attempting some reform.

In that column, I used prescription drugs as an example of control gone awry. I wrote, "A prescription from a pharmacy requires the authorization of a person who is licensed by the federal government to issue it, yet according to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, prescription drugs kill far more people each year than illegal drugs or deaths by motor vehicles or deaths by guns. Yet, there is no significant call for a control of cars or further control of the prescription drug system. There is no war on legal drugs."

Lo and behold, the Los Angeles Times ran a headline last week that read, "Federal panel advises tighter controls on painkiller Vicodin," followed by the subhead, "In a move to stem the epidemic of prescription drug deaths, an advisory panel to the FDA recommends that the agency reclassify hydrocodone, the active ingredient in Vicodin, as a Schedule II narcotic."

It is highly unlikely that anyone in D.C. reads this column each week, so I cannot take credit for having inspired the Federal Drug Administration. My main source of satisfaction is knowing that I was ahead of the curve.

Local gun control is now a hot topic here in Newport-Mesa as decision-makers scramble to reassure parents that our schools are safe. So let's be clear: Our schools are safe. That is not to say that more cannot be done to protect our students, but there is a tipping which, once past, will provide a false sense of security that could actually serve to weaken security through increased complacency.

Complacency occurs when students, teachers and administrators feel safe inside their school through the presence of metal detectors, law enforcement or other armed personnel, or cameras, or all of the above, and choose not to take action when action is required. None of these safety measures, or even all of them, will prevent a determined individual from bringing a gun onto a campus with the intent to harm.

It is interesting to note that the Times story had a coincidental comparison between gun deaths and other deaths. "Prescription drugs — primarily narcotic painkillers such as hydrocodone — cause or contribute to more deaths than heroin and cocaine combined," read the story. "As a result, drug fatalities have surpassed deaths from motor vehicle crashes, long the leading cause of accidental death in this country."

The interesting part is the choice to omit a reference to gun deaths and their lower fatality rate. With the gun control issue raging in Washington, it is a curious omission.

The best defense against a student attack on campus is to educate our students about the symptoms a shooter may exhibit and ask that they speak up when they see them, as they are usually the first to know.

This program is easy, effective and costs almost nothing.

STEVE SMITH is a Costa Mesa resident and a freelance writer. Send story ideas to

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World