Danger! Guns and Sudafed

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No need to worry, though. Our government does a bang-up job of regulating things, so we’ve got the problem under control. I know this to be a fact because the system caught me trying to defeat the controls put in place for my own good.

You see, I recently had a whopper of a cold, so I went to my local grocery store pharmacy to pick up some Sudafed. I wanted a box of the 12-hour for daytime use, say 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and a box of the four-hour version for the evenings. The stuff keeps me awake, so I had little interest in popping another 12-hour tablet before bedtime. I figured the four-hour would wear off by midnight, giving me a chance at some decent sleep.

Thankfully, the mandatory and comprehensive federal background check system caught me, clearly a criminal in the making, for trying to buy too much cold medicine. Apparently, the sum total of milligrams of some ephedrine, something or other, exceeded the amount Uncle Sam had determined I might need. My purchase was rejected, and I had to stick with just a box of 12-hour booger dryer-upper. Tough noogies for slowing the snot in the evening hours. Hey, we all have to make sacrifices for the good of the country, right?

At this point, you may be wondering why I think you might care about my nasal cavity issues. You should, and here’s why.

Crystal Meth

Sorry, we’re not going to publish a recipe here, and I don’t know how to make the stuff anyway, but apparently, if you take a few thousand boxes of Sudafed and other cold medicines and distill them down, you use the underlying chemicals in there to make meth. That’s enough detail for our mission here to make a serious point about gun control, so stay with me.

Anyway, back in 1999, before all this started, the CDC reported 608 deaths from methamphetamine use. Remember this number for a minute.

Problem Solved

To combat the growing crystal meth problem, the jackweasels in Washington decided to target people … with colds. You heard me right. The Combat Methamphetamine Act was passed in 2005 to put Sudafed and other cold medicines back behind the counter and established a federal “background check” system to limit and record all sales involving cold medicine containing the effective-on-boogers pseudoephedrine.

By doing this, when you feel miserable, you now need to dutifully show your license to the pharmacist so they can enter your credentials into the background check and purchase registration system. If you’ve had too many colds or, heaven forbid, want both 12- and 4-hour versions of Sudafed, you can no longer make a purchase, at least not until the next 30-day permission cycle.

At Least it Worked …

Or did it? By targeting people like you and me, the government did succeed in making it harder for criminals to buy Sudafed from pharmacies. Did it stop or even slow the problem?

Nope. In fact, the problem increased approximately 50-fold between 1999 and 2021. Yes, you read that right. The methamphetamine overdose problem is now 50 TIMES WORSE than it was in 1999, even with all these new federal background checks. The number of meth-related deaths increased from 608 in 1999 to a whopping 32,527 in 2021. And as we all know, the problem continues to grow exponentially.

This is no surprise to anyone. Criminals don’t care about laws like this. They care about making money, so they figured out how to source pseudoephedrine in far greater quantities than they could ever dream of getting from Walgreens and CVS. Now, it comes in by truck and boatload from Mexico and China.

Sound Familiar?

The reason for this little diversion into pharmaceuticals is to create a depressingly accurate analogy. By targeting sick people to combat crime, the government not only made it harder for ill people to buy medicine; they didn’t accomplish a single thing to reduce the meth problem. In fact, it’s now 50 times worse since the magical government solution.

If you’re paying attention, this sounds really familiar, doesn’t it? The current talk in political circles centers on implementing universal background checks for any transaction involving a gun. Many of these proposed laws even apply to a short-term loan. Technically speaking, in some states, when at the range with a friend, you wouldn’t be able to hand them your gun and say, “Here, try mine.”

You and I both know the only people affected by more background checks are law-abiding citizens. Criminals with the mental desire to commit robbery, rape and murder aren’t concerned with such things. Can you really picture Joe Home Invader buying a pistol on the street after filling out a form for the guy selling stolen guns out of his trunk?

So, like the Sudafed debacle, all this background check noise will accomplish nothing more than politicians giving themselves a pat on the back while making life more difficult for people who follow laws. It’s never been about reducing crime. It’s always about making it harder and harder and harder to own guns in this country.

Ask the Question

The next time someone lectures you about background checks, raise this innocent question. “Oh, so the idea is to solve violence, kind of like we solved the crystal meth epidemic, right? Can you walk me through that so I understand?” Ideally, do this with a straight face so they eventually see the fallacy in their own argument. Of course, you can ask guiding questions like, “So, how much did we impact the overdose problem? I’m not sure I’ve seen that figure….” If all else fails, you might have to interject the data point that the problem is 50 times worse since we implemented “universal background checks.”

Oh, one last thing. The good news in all this is we have a new replacement cold medicine, available over the counter, called phenylephrine, which is the primary ingredient in most of the “new and improved” stuffy nose medications. In tests, it’s still not proven itself to work any better than placebos. So, you have, once again, the federal government to thank for taking decisive but ineffective action.

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