When U.S. Cong. Steve Womack (R-Rogers) was challenged about gun regulations at a Tuesday night town hall meeting in Harrison, he asked the crowd why there wasn’t more of an outcry about drug overdose deaths.
Several people in the crowd of about 50 Tuesday night wanted Womack to state his case on gun legislation. He agreed that people don’t need canisters of ricin or a nerve agent or an M-1 tank in their front yards.
“In nefarious hands, those things are really weapons of serious mass destruction,” he said.
As some of those people in the crowd began to challenge him even further, he asked them to let him finish his statement. After a pause, he continued.
“Where is the outcry on fentanyl?” he asked the crowd. “We lost 70,000 people last year to drug overdoses. Where is the outcry?”
That met with applause from the crowd.
He continued to say that more than 30,000 people died last year from influenza.
“But you don’t hear people standing up and saying, ‘We need a universal flu vaccine that will solve this problem.’”
He noted that people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer face an almost 95% mortality rate. Still, people aren’t clamoring for the government to increase medical research to stem that tide.
Instead, people choose an emotional issue and seem to forget that tens of thousands of people die each day as a result of car crashes, drug overdoses and potentially pandemic flu.
“And yet we focus on the gun issue,” he said.
Peggy Moody of Caney in Marion County was in the crowd and said she was concerned about what she called a climate emergency.
Moody said that if the government spent more money trying to fix environmental issues the cost of repairs from super storms might be less, much like wellness checks in health care.
Womack said he also was concerned about the climate for his grandchildren. But he’s also concerned about jobs for them and making sure they have a future by grooming all young people for the jobs of the future rather than making the mistakes of the past by telling them they just need to go to college.
“The climate is changing,” Womack said. “It has always changed.”
Moody said renewable energy could make the difference for new kinds of jobs.
Womack said that might be true, but he doesn’t want the government to dictate that by offering incentives and credits to develop the industry.
“And that’s exactly how you end up with corporate welfare by all these do-good policies,” he said.
Instead, he wants to see those jobs stand on their own merit.
He’s often asked, he said, if he believes in renewable energy. He said he does, but he doesn’t want to see the country move away from fossil fuels and cause potential harm to the economy until it’s certain there is a reliable source of renewable energy to power the entire grid.