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This Week in Congress: Expanding the Nanny State and Virtue Signaling

After the GOP lost the House to the Democrats – many of whom are so far left that the Communist Party USA openly celebrated their victories – the flood of “common sense” progressive proposals seemed inevitable. Sure enough, the 116th Congress is awash in new legislation – with 335 bills or resolutions introduced and 17 passed in the last week. Of course, there’s the usual round of resolutions to either recognize someone or something, or to express some great congressional opinion – in other words, one might say, a whole lot of nothing. But hidden amongst the legislative slop are little gems that can make a huge difference to your liberty.

Fruit vs. Freedom

Democratic Representative Diana DeGette of Colorado’s first district introduced a bill last Tuesday seeking to ban fruit and candy flavors for e-cigarettes. Rep DeGette sees the increased number of teens vaping and believes that the e-cigarette industry is specifically targeting them with their non-tobacco flavored juices. If passed, H.R. 1498 would require manufacturers to somehow prove to the FDA that they aren’t specifically marketing their products to kids – though it’s unclear just how they would go about proving such a thing.

The ultimate goal, of course, is to ban “the sale of these enticing kid-friendly nicotine flavors,” as Rep. DeGette put it. As with most nanny state bills aimed at regulating behavior “for our own good,” it misses a few key points. Whether the Colorado Democrat legitimately doesn’t see them or intentionally ignores them, we won’t speculate.

Perhaps the most glaring contradiction to her point is the fact that fruity flavors poll as the most popular among adults. As Liberty Nation’s Jeff Charles wrote, “many who vape do not wish to use a product that tastes like cigarettes because they do not want to be tempted to go back to smoking.” While there has been some question as to the safety of the propylene or vegetable glycol used in these juices, more traditional cigarettes are known to contain dozens of carcinogens. That, of course, doesn’t make vaping safe – merely probably less dangerous than smoking. Safer is not quite the same as safe. The natural medium of the lungs is, after all, air – not the smoke of burning tobacco or vaporized flavor juice. As for vaping to quit smoking: Many gradually step themselves down in nicotine levels until they’re vaping just the flavor.

Rep. DeGette cites the CDC’s statistics and correctly points out that around 90% of all tobacco users start before they’re of legal age. She fails to explain, however, that this has been the case for years – long before there were electronic alternatives. And what about fruit flavored adult beverages? By her logic, if a bar serves any alcoholic beverage with a fruity flavor, isn’t that marketing to minors?

More Poison in the Air

While we’re on the topic of airborne toxins, Rep. Ann M. Kuster – a New Hampshire Democrat – introduced a bill Thursday “to encourage States to require the installation of residential carbon monoxide detectors in homes, and for other purposes.”

Initially introduced in 2017, this measure both encourages states to require the installation and proposes grants to fund it. It would also obligate states to spend the additional tax dollars for carbon monoxide and alarm use education courses and material and require them to report to Congress each year on the progress.

Carbon monoxide is dangerous – and installing detectors in the home is a good idea. But as with the aforementioned bill or any other aimed at restricting the use of potentially dangerous substances, one must question whether Congress has the constitutional authority to regulate good ideas.

Political Posturing and Virtue Signaling

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) reintroduced her bill to prevent gun trafficking. First introduced in 2009, this proposed legislation has become something of an annual attempt on her part. Sen. Gillibrand seeks to bar folk from knowingly selling more than two guns to someone they know – or have reason to believe – is prohibited by law from owning a firearm.

Setting aside any concern of whether the Second Amendment allows for the disenfranchisement of any group, this bill has a couple of issues – it’s already illegal to knowingly sell a firearm to a prohibited person, and how would such a law be enforced anyway without requiring universal background checks?

Along the same lines of apparent political posturing and virtue signaling, Rep. Mike Quigley of the fifth district in Illinois reintroduced a gun bill of his own. The NICS Denial Notification Act would establish an alert system that notifies the state police whenever someone not allowed to buy a firearm tries to do so.

“Effective communication between federal, state, and local authorities is a key element in the fight to prevent needless gun violence,” Rep. Quigley said in a statement. “When all levels of law enforcement are on the same page, we are better able to prevent firearms from getting into the hands of convicted felons and domestic abusers.”

This is either a great idea or a terrible one – depending entirely on your perspective regarding the disarming of certain groups of people. But what pushes it into the realm of political posturing – even for those who do believe some people shouldn’t be allowed the right to keep and bear arms – is the inconsistency in Rep. Quigley’s views. He’s all for law enforcement agencies working together and being on the same page, but only when it comes to enforcing gun control. In 2017, he introduced legislation to protect sanctuary cities – which shelter illegal immigrants by refusing to work with federal law enforcement.

Tune in next week for more highlights – or lowlights – from Congress.

Read More From James Fite

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