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The Scoop 10-6
We took aim and halted meth labs
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It's evidently very easy to flail our arms and claim nothing can be done to inoculate America from our chronic disease of gun deaths.
To prove legislation can in fact be crafted to solve major issues facing society, allow me to tell the story of Tennessee's meth lab epidemic, which is no longer an epidemic at all.
If you recall, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, meth labs were everywhere in Warren County. Here at the Standard, we couldn't make it two weeks without a meth lab making the paper. Meth labs were so prevalent, our fine town was commonly ridiculed as MethMinnville.
Then something odd, strange and curious happened. The Tennessee General Assembly decided to act.
In 2005, state lawmakers passed a regulation that placed cold medicine containing ephedrine, a key ingredient to meth, behind pharmacy counters. The measure worked and the number of meth labs dropped. In October 2005, there were a reported 55 meth labs seized in Tennessee. In October 2006, that number had fallen to 25.
To compensate, meth makers adapted. They recruited people called smurfs who traveled from pharmacy to pharmacy to buy cold medicine. It was an inconvenience, but they could still buy ephedrine and meth labs were still popular.
So the Tennessee General Assembly acted again and passed a law limiting the amount of ephedrine which could be purchased per year. This worked to a great degree, but there was still one problem. There was no way for the pharmacist at Rite Aid to know what the pharmacist at Walgreens had sold 10 minutes earlier. That meant the smurfs could stop at every pharmacy in town for a one-day buying binge before they would be flagged.
Seeing this loophole, state lawmakers established a real-time database. Now, as soon as my purchase for ephedrine is made at Walgreens, it's immediately entered into the system and I can't hop over to the next pharmacy to buy more.
All these Tennessee state laws have done one remarkable thing. They have almost completely eradicated meth labs in our state. Here in Warren County, I can't remember the last time we've published a story on a meth lab bust. I would estimate it's been at least a year.
This shows that stricter laws can make an impact. It took over a decade for state lawmakers to get it completely right, but their work has helped to rid our community of meth labs.
The same thing can be done with gun control measures. Laws can be crafted which ensure every American can own a firearm, our Second Amendment right, while working to prevent everyday gun massacres.
Lawmakers could have declared there's no way to stop meth labs in Tennessee, that the problem was too widespread, but they didn't.
Yet for some reason, our state and federal lawmakers are more than happy to have a front-row seat to watch people get slaughtered while they sit and do nothing about it.
Standard editor James Clark can be reached at 473-2191.