HETRICK: From Indiana and Tucson, a tale of two tragedies

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Bruce Hetrick

It’s morning. A few hundred people have shaken off a sound sleep, grabbed that first cup of Joe or Cheerios, hopped in the shower, fired up the curling iron or blow dryer, and suited themselves in jeans and T-shirts, slacks and jackets, leather and metal, cashmere and polyester, even boots and bolo ties.

They come alone. They come as couples. They come in groups. However they come, they park in the massive lot, queue up at the doors, and fan out through the crowded aisles.

They’re happy. They’re feeling lucky. It’s their big chance to kick back, drop a few dollars, grab some snacks, and have a drink.

The guests will stick around for an hour or two, pulling levers, placing bets. The staff will be on hand for a full shift, catering to the customers’ every whim; sharing their joy when things go right; offering solace when things go wrong; empathizing, always empathizing, eager to help with every request.

In the midst of these masses, trouble emerges. It’s pulled from a purse or vest pocket. Sometimes, it’s a lone assassin. Other times, a dastardly pair. Sometimes, a dirty dozen, a scheming score, a hundred killers or more.

They arrive armed and dangerous, filtered and unfiltered, silent but deadly, ready for their sneak attack. Then all at once, or in choreographed sequence, or with endless repetition, they trigger their chemical weapons—a cloud of haze that poisons the lungs, squeezes the veins, smacks the heart, slams the head, wrinkles the skin and worse.

It’s Glocks and Gatling guns all in one—and all at once.

A suicide bombing far more deadly than the ones in Iraq.

An annual U.S. death toll (450,000) nearly twice as high as the long-term death toll from atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined (270,000).

And this entire enterprise is legal, sanctioned and—most important—taxed by your government. For employees, it’s officially endorsed daily and nightly death duty at taverns, casinos, bowling alleys, Legion halls, dance clubs and more.

Meanwhile, America went ape (and rightly so) a few weeks ago. It started in one city (Tucson, Ariz.) when a small group of people got up on a Saturday morning.

They shook off a sound sleep, grabbed their first cup of Joe or Cheerios, hopped in the shower, fired up the curling iron or blow dryer, and suited themselves in jeans and T-shirts, slacks and jackets, leather and metal, cashmere and polyester, boots and bolo ties.

They went to a Safeway supermarket at the corner of Oracle and Ina. They came as singles. They came as couples. They came as families and neighbors.

They parked in the Safeway lot, queued up outside the front door, and waited to chat with their congresswoman and her staff.

They were happy. They were feeling lucky to have their hand shaken or their problem solved. After the event, maybe they were going to kick back for the weekend, or go for a hike in the desert. Maybe they’d drop a few dollars on groceries, grab some snacks, and have a drink while watching sports on TV.

Whatever the case, the guests planned to stick around for a few minutes. The congresswoman and her staff would be there all morning. And they’d talk about the constituents’ every whim, sharing in their joy if things were going right, offering solace if things were going wrong. Empathizing, always empathizing, eager to help with every request.

Trouble arrived in the form of Jared Lee Loughner. With a high-capacity clip in his 9mm Glock, he killed six and wounded 13. Those hit included congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was critically wounded by a shot through the brain; federal Judge John Roll, who was shot dead; and Christina Taylor Green, a 9-year-old girl, born on 9/11—also shot dead.

One gunman. One weapon. Eighteen victims. The bad guy is locked up, denied bail and likely facing the death penalty. The event triggers an appropriate and overdue national debate on hate speech, political rhetoric, firearms legislation, mental-health issues and more. We watch the funerals and weep.

Meanwhile, the biggest killer of all—cigarette smoke—knocks off 450,000 Americans a year—400,000 of those smokers themselves, 50,000 innocent bystanders.

The bad guys—Big Tobacco—not only stay in business, but are encouraged to export their death and disease worldwide. There’s little debate. Smoke-free-workplace legislation gets watered down, amended to death (literally) and set aside year after year. And the hearses roll by—filled with the bodies of bartenders, waitresses, card dealers and, yes, newspaper reporters whose jobs take them to smoke-choked environments.

Despite the carnage, public officials look the other way, happy to have sin taxes filling budget gaps, content to have tobacco money lining campaign coffers.

One tragedy we didn’t see coming. The other we refuse to prevent. And those of us with loved ones lost watch the funerals and weep.•


Hetrick is chairman and CEO of Hetrick Communications Inc., an Indianapolis-based public relations and marketing communications firm. His column appears twice a month. He can be reached at bhetrick@ibj.com.


  • wow, and a response that's very toned down.
    And quick thanks to Jeff for emailing me that he wasn't a regular IBJ writer, but an outside columnist. I was wondering about that....

    I don't know what else to say, other than that it is just idiotic for anyone to fall for the secondhand smoke lies, and believing that they are in the hundreds of thousands, when NOT ONE death is caused by the wisps of SHS you infrequently encounter outside, or in the extremely limited number of establishments permitting smoking(never mind that I imagine most anti-smokers already avoid smoking establishments, as it is, and which they have a clear right to do). And for writing a reprehensible column comparing indoor smoking to a nuclear bombing, and Jared Lee Loughner's despicable shooting? What's the darn point of doing that?

    Just know the truth, that NOT one person has ever died just because of brief SHS exposure. Some people in the anti-smoking movement have even become ashamed of how ludicrous the claims of fellow anti-smoking supporters have gotten, and have set up blogs to debunk the overreaching claims, such as Dr. Michael Siegal of Boston:

    Just remember, the nanny-state may say they only want a inch today, but really they always want so much more than just an inch, and a length that's much closer to a mile. First they said decades ago(and even
    before I was born, as well) they only wanted a non-smoking section on airplanes, and now they want to selfishly banish smoking in all places outside, in addition to all indoor places, from throughout all outdoor areas of places like public parks and college campuses, to even sometimes going as far to ban smoking in one's private apartment where a landlord may voluntarily allow smoking. (never mind a greater number of landlords than not ban smoking inside apartments!) The anti-smoking movement has always been about nothing but as much excessive control over a too-demonized minority as possible, through the scope of ever-widening(and often unenforceable) laws under the false banner of health. Why else did NYC Mayor Bloomberg just pass an overreaching park and beach smoking ban for every outdoor inch of
    1700 NYC parks, and the Chicago Park District board passed an unenforceable beach smoking ban slightly over 3 years ago?

    Thankfully, many businesses in Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, and in the handful of Indiana communities foolish enough to adopt total smoking bans including bars have been very rightfully fighting back against these laws, as 'smokeeasies'. Hundreds of Michigan bars throughout the state protested their state's new statewide ban, including bars, less than 11/2 months ago, on New Year's Eve 2010 and New Year's Day 2011. If either local or Indiana state lawmakers are dumb enough to enact a total smoking ban this year, and remove free choice from adult establishments on the smoking issue(never mind that Indy's ordinance already requires age-restricted businesses to have clear exterior signage stating they permit smoking, if they choose not to be a no-smoking business, which is very fair IMHO), then have fun counting all the job losses and decreased employee wages that result from the enactment of a total smoking ban. Illinois' total ban(in my home state) has had an extremely high impact on mom-and-pop businesses, and not to forget tobacco-related conventions that used to choose my state for such events, like pipe

    It's just a sad travesty you would want to make ridiculous comparisons like you did, and ludicrous articles like this doesn't belong in the pages of any newspaper or business journal. Mr. Hetrick, you should be very ashamed of yourself for making such bogus analogies in this article. Would you like it if someone else made a ridiculous analogy that attacked a legal vice, and just demonized it further. If you really cared about health, you should be pushing for total tobacco prohibition, and encouraging Indiana lawmakers to completely outlaw the sale of any tobacco product. It's ridiculous you are only encouraging the same tired demonization of one's vice only because it's an 'in' thing for many elitists to do, especially when cigarettes and all other forms of tobacco are legal, last time I checked.
  • First, the loss of property, then escalating "enforcement" of those laws, then democide
    Dear Mr. Hetrick (and other statists),

    I guess you have trouble comprehending the difference between "voluntary" and "coercive". Aggression is involuntary and coercive, and is rightfully against the law, because it effects those who are innocent bystanders, without their having any say in the matter. Voluntary use of private property is completely different than this, yet your article treats it the same as coercion.

    This is probably for several reasons:
    1) You don't believe that there is any variation among individuals, so you can't imagine how smoking would be a worthwhile if risky reward for some people.
    2) You can't imagine that private citizens might actually prevent mass murder by government, here in the USA, because you're so docile you'd get right onto the cattle cars, if told to.
    3) You don't understand that guns are used to prevent or respond to violence, even more than they are used to initiate it. (In fact, Loughner himself was shot by armed people in Tucson.)

    The attack on Gabriel Giffords was coercion, that is rightfully against the law. You're right: he should be punished for violating others' rights. But your problem arises in that you seem to have no concept of the idea of property rights, or self-ownership. It's understandable, if you went to a government school, and never had any real curiosity about the subjects you're writing about.

    You wrote: "One gunman. One weapon. Eighteen victims. The bad guy is locked up, denied bail and likely facing the death penalty. The event triggers an appropriate and overdue national debate on hate speech, political rhetoric, firearms legislation, mental-health issues and more. We watch the funerals and weep.

    Meanwhile, the biggest killer of allâ??cigarette smokeâ??knocks off 450,000 Americans a yearâ??400,000 of those smokers themselves, 50,000 innocent bystanders."

    The sad thing is, you don't even seem to know that the number one killer on the planet is --hands down-- government force See: http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/VIS.TEARS.ALL.AROUND.HTM . Moreover, this force also cripples the economy, and prevents innovation and wealth accumulation by flooding the economy with devalued paper that the government forces everyone to use as money. Incidentally, the surplus of this money is kept by the government to pay to its enforcers: the people who will be responsible for enforcing the unenforceable laws you seem to advocate.

    By your logic, the government should protect us all from taking risks. Of course, that is the logic that every dictator in the history of mankind has used: "big brother knows best".

    Your suggestions: more unlawful legislation, (which means less recourse to trial by jury), the banning of more peaceful voluntary behavior. Your "solution" is repugnant to the idea of individual freedom. But even worse, it causes the very problems that you seek to solve. In fact, your suggestion directly causes violence to innocent lives.

    People who own machine guns will be murdered by the government, if there is more "gun control". Their doors will be kicked in in unconstitutional "raids" and more children will lose their parents, and more parents will lose their children. The already booming prison population in America will create a true soviet state, for those who not inclined to follow such cruel and irrational laws. We have 1.2 million nonviolent drug offenders in jail now. How much are you willing to increase that number? How many doors will you personally volunteer to kick in? How many more officers will you see shot by people who are simply defending their own privacy and freedom?

    People of your ilk are the worst enemies America has ever had. It is you who have contributed to making the USA a police state, where juries are selected by the judge and prosecution (using tactics designed to get northerners to enforce the Fugitive Slave law of 1850). Why are juries no longer randomly-selected? Why does court "procedure" now totally interfere with the possibility of a free trial?

    ..Because only busybody tyrants will unanimously agree to send their fellow man to prison for simple property possession, and lawful use.

    Those are the things you seek to ban.

    Of course, since almost everyone agrees with you, this is why such prosaic things as selling Stevia (incredibly healthy) and apricot kernels (incredibly healthy) are now regulated out of existence by our government. A person who substitutes Stevia for sugar in their food will live ten extra years compared to someone who does not. But most people are ignorant of this fact, because they have never seen Stevia products included in pre-packaged food. Donald Rumsfeld saw that Stevia would mean the death of Aspartame, a poisonous substance, when he was the head of Nutrasweet corporation. So he had the FDA "fail to approve it".

    He had this power because YOU gave it to him. You voted to have the government micromanage our lives to the point where even what we ingest is "fair game".

    Had we not acquiesced to this submissive way of thinking, we would still be free. But the power to prohibit personal property with government force never works out the way that the nannies of the world want it to. It causes bloodshed, ruined lives, and a stagnant economy.

    Approximately 10% of those who are working age are unemployed. How much more interference with the market are you willing to tolerate, Mr. Busybody?

    The death of American freedom is apparently a death you're not concerned with. ...And this is too bad. Because the death of freedom leads to democide, AKA "mass murder by government". And yeah, I know, you don't think that's true. But you don't know your history, and haven't read anything about the incremental creep of government coercion.

    At some point, people stop obeying the laws, and lead their own private lives. And when that happens, swarms of police are there to arrest them. It doesn't happen right away.

    ...So you're oblivious to it. You don't see the 1.2 million people behind bars. ...Just like Germans didn't see the millions of Jews on cattlecars, headed for Auschwitz. The German government also claimed to be restricting property rights for the safety of its citizens.

    But the government can't keep us all safe. They can only wield government force.

    It's strange that for one who seems so opposed to violence, that you favor such a dramatic expansion of its use as a "problem solving tool".

    BTW: Jared Loughner gave the dominance of the federal reserve system as the reason for his sociopathic attack. Whether you think he was crazy or not, that's one of the things he wrote. ...I wonder how many other young people who feel oppressed by the fact that they cannot save anything significant --thanks to the inflated paper currency you suggest using to pay for all of this force you advocate-- will do similar things? I know you think you're smarter than the rest of us, so smart that you should be able to decide what we can own, and what we can smoke, and what we can say in public, ...but the law of unintended consequences has a long reach. When your big plans to limit everyone's freedom backfire, will you be willing to write a column admitting you were wrong?

    Just curious.

  • Disgusting
    Without question, this is the most appalling and disgusting example of the lunatic fringe of the anti-smoking jihad I have ever read. So smokers are analogous to suicide bombers, lone assassins, and even nuclear warfare? You have descended into the most crazed hysterical fit I have ever seen put into print. But what concerns me is that the IBJ would be so irresponsible as to allow this to appear on its site or in its print edition.

    The anti-smoking crusade has been escalating its use of fabrications, hysteria and bogus, grant-driven study figures ever since the days when David Kessler was running the FDA. Smokers have had to sit by while they have been accused of molesting children and belching clouds of death down infant throats. But this column is beyond the pale, and belongs in a middle school creative writing class, not what is ostensibly a "business journal."

    Smokers make up 25% of Indiana's population. Quit trying to balance the state and federal budgets on their taxes, and subsidizing health and life insurance premiums with disproportionate penalties against smokers, or have the guts to push for prohibition and deal with THOSE consequences.
  • what?
    hmmmm...this analogy seems to be a stretch, no?

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