When I was about 11 or 12 years old, a man in my small hometown of Tremonton made national news when he proposed a city ordinance to ban smoking in some public buildings.
People in town were horrified that someone would make us all look like such fools. People outside Tremonton thought it was hilarious: What kind of nut would try to restrict anyone's right to smoke?Actually, he didn't try what would obviously have been outrageous - to keep anyone from lighting up. But he did say that smokers shouldn't be able to exhale smoke around others who weren't smoking. He became a laughingstock.
I have often wished I could remember his name; if I did some serious research, I'm sure I could find it. Maybe somebody will send me e-mail with the information. I'd like to write the guy a letter and see what he thinks of today's anti-smoking laws and the lawsuits filed against tobacco companies since he made headlines back in the early '60s.
Back then, people who didn't smoke didn't realize they had the right to breathe smoke-free air. Because there were a lot of vocal and influential people who smoked, their rights seemed to outweigh the rights of those who didn't. But slowly common sense began to prevail, until now it seems odd to think that anti-smoking laws could ever have been thought humorous.
We know better. We know smoking is a foolish thing to do, and subjecting non-smokers to its effects takes away their right to a healthful environment.
There are some eerie similarities between what was once thought of as an undeniable right to smoke and what is now considered an unalienable right to carry a gun.
The Utah Legislature this year once again decided the rights of gun advocates supersede the rights of those who want to live without the presence of guns in places such as schools and churches and in privately owned businesses.
The lawmakers once again put the right to carry a concealed weapon above the rights of those who own property to do what they believe will keep their property more safe: keep guns off it.
Now along comes an event - the 2002 Winter Olympics - that's making it more apparent how people view our Wild West gun laws. The sobering fact is that if Utah's gun laws aren't changed, the Olympics can't be held here. Because those who run the Olympic Games don't feel athletes, spectators, reporters and other visitors could be protected with 15,000 or more concealed weapons being carried around under people's coats or tucked inside their belts.
Sorry, folks, it just wouldn't be safe. The same way airports wouldn't be safe if guns were allowed there. Are the security laws designed only to prevent armed terrorists from attending the Games or walking into an airport? I don't think so.
Guns create an unsafe environment the same way smoking creates an unhealthy environment. How many of those 15,000 Utahns with concealed-weapons permits would you want sitting next to you or your child in a classroom or in church? Maybe I have a suspicious nature, but I'd like to believe that the people around me in public places are as unarmed as I am because I don't know which of those gun-toting defenders of their own personal rights has the good sense to know when to use that gun and which ones don't.
And neither do you.
Surveys have shown we Utahns don't feel we need to change our image because the Olympics are coming to town. But we're going to have to change our gun laws because they don't make any sense to the rest of the world.
And maybe someday our lawmakers will see they don't make any sense to us, either, despite the strong-arm tactics of lobbyists with money in their pockets who laugh at those who try to make them see that sometimes the rights of the majority should prevail.