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This week on the blog, we’re foregoing our usual silliness to talk seriously for a minute, an experiment in dubious intellectualism.

In this election cycle, and really even the rest of the time when the world makes somewhat more sense, I am annoyed (was going to say “shocked”, but I’d be lying) at how personally offended some people get at certain public laws. Even people who barely know how laws are made or who their elected representatives are, can become convinced a law was only passed to screw them over.

For example: smoking bans and gun laws. Whatever you believe about how these things should be regulated, can’t we agree these laws aren’t really about you, but rather are about protecting the people around you? We can have an intelligent discussion about the way to reach that goal if you get off this notion that it’s a personal assault in you.

SMOKING BANS: the point of regulating where you can smoke is not to tell you that you can’t smoke (though, seriously, you really should. You know that.). The point is to protect everyone else – co-workers, waitresses, kids, and everyone else – from having to breathe in your harmful smoke. Smoking is unique among vices because just the act of doing it affects everyone around you involuntarily. If we’re sitting in the same room and you choose to drink a beer or consume a greasy, unhealthy, bacon cheeseburger (yum, by the way) , it doesn’t affect me. But if you’re smoking, guess what? So am I. I’m breathing in the same cancer-causing chemicals you are, whether I choose to or not. That’s not fair to me. Do it if you must. Just take it somewhere else, please.

GUN LAWS: I worry about my kids being the victims of criminals. I worry more, however, about them being the accidental victim of a person who has a gun lawfully. I don’t care who the gun owner is. Guns are dangerous. Whether or not gun ownership is a Second Amendment right is a separate issue. If you have a gun, you should be willing to do whatever it takes to keep it safe. Even if you’re not worried about accidentally shooting yourself (though you should be. Seems to happen a lot.), you should be concerned about accidentally shooting someone else, or losing that gun to someone who will use it on purpose. Gun locks, background checks, safety courses, gun cabinets and restrictions on the type of guns Joe Schmoe can have out in public, or whether he can have a gun at all, are not about telling you you can’t have a gun. Have a gun if you want. Just keep my kid safe.

My contention that certain types of public safety laws aren’t about you, they’re about everyone else around you, also applies, to a lesser extent, to things like helmet laws and seatbelt laws. Man, do people hate these. And, on the surface, you can make a pretty good case that these laws do target you, motorcycle rider or car driver, personally. If you’re not wearing a helmet or a seatbelt, it doesn’t affect me. Right? Right.

Except, it kinda does.

Let’s say we’re in an accident. I’m in my car. You’re on your motorcycle or in your own car. If one of us is at fault, we’re at fault and need to take responsibility for that, whether or not helmets and seatbelts are in play. Or maybe it is a true accident – equal fault – maybe a rainy day or we’re both trying to get out of the way of some other accident or something and unavoidably get in our own collision. Regardless, if you’re not wearing a helmet or a seatbelt, you’re probably going to get hurt worse than you would otherwise. I think the science would back that up.

“Well, that’s my choice. I can gamble if I want,” you say. Fair enough. Except…

You getting hurt worse does affect me because I have to pay out more for your injuries.(Plus, honestly, whether I’m at fault or not, I’m going to feel bad if you get seriously hurt.) It affects your family because they have to pay out more and, also, because maybe now you’re dead from not wearing a helmet or a seatbelt and they miss you. Greater injuries means higher cost to your insurance company and mine. And then, everyone else who has policies with our insurance companies sees their rates get jacked because, insurance companies being how they are, aren’t just going to raise our rates, they’re going to raise everyone’s probably.

And what if one or both us doesn’t have insurance? The hospital will still treat our injuries, but who pays for it? Taxpayers, that’s who. Suddenly, a personal choice not to wear a helmet or a seatbelt has become an entire society’s problem.

George Costanza from “Seinfeld” once said, “You know, we’re living in a society!” Red Green from “The Red Green Show” often says, “I’m pulling for you. We’re all in this together.” It would be nice if we could realize that not everything is about just us. Sometimes it’s about doing what’s best for everyone. Give this some thought. I promise to make with the funny next time.


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