What do guns, drugs, and alcohol have in common? They are all highly
portable, highly prized by many people, and can be abused. Each has been the
object of societal sanctions.
A grand, but foolish experiment with alcohol prohibition was tried from 1920
to 1933. The dreadful results are well documented. Drug prohibition has lasted
much longer and provides an excellent example of how a prohibition program works
in modern times.
In the name of protecting the public, the war on drugs has led to greater
government power in many areas. The once unbreakable line between the police and
military has crumbled. Our prisons overflow with people convicted of drug
related crimes, but drugs are more available than ever. New terms like
"body cavity search", "no-knock entry", "racial
profiling", and "stop and frisk" have entered our vocabulary.
SWAT teams that were originally formed to rescue hostages now execute deadly
nocturnal raids on houses designated by informants of doubtful reliability or on
houses of people who annoy local authorities. Guilty and innocent alike are
being killed in increasing numbers. Laws allowing enforcement agencies to keep
confiscated drug wealth often determine the targets of anti-drug raids. Police
corruption is a constant problem.
Criminal gangs have flourished under drug prohibition, much as they did in
the 1920's. Smugglers and gangsters literally owe their livelihood to the war on
It is becoming painfully obvious that the cure is worse than the disease. Yet
some people appear to have learned nothing from alcohol prohibition or drug
prohibition and insist that we experience the joys of gun prohibition. There are
indications that the same counterproductive tactics will be used. Some of the
worst abuses of government force in recent years were precipitated by technical
and victimless gun law violations.
The media has played an important role by dramatizing the ill effects of drug
abuse, while completely ignoring the way that crime and violence are worsened by
drug prohibition. Perhaps some strange taboo prevents an honest look at the big
Media treatment of the gun issue is very much the same. Stories involving
inappropriate use of firearms are front page news, but there is a virtual
blackout on positive stories
about armed self defense or the way that stricter gun laws lead to higher
levels of crime and violence.
Opponents of both the war on drugs and the war on guns have adopted the same
term --unintended consequences-- to describe the way in which stronger laws
paradoxically cause more crime and violence. Their web sites are almost mirror
images of each other, except that they complain about the corruption, lack of
accountability and violent depredations of different government agencies. These
groups are isolated at either end of the political spectrum, but their common
interest is obvious.
Those who oppose the disastrous war on drugs and those who oppose the growing
war on guns are starting to reach out to each other. They are setting aside
ideological differences and exploring their common interest. If these two groups
can show the way, there are other groups who might join a crusade for fewer laws
and less government interference in our daily lives.
Perhaps some enterprising politician will sense this natural alliance and use
it to further his or her career. Republican politicians have paid lip service to
the concept of a smaller, less intrusive government, but are unwilling to make
the ideological shift necessary to exploit it.
There is no way to predict how much success this potential political alliance
could have, since it will be opposed by many politicians who jealously protect
government power. Even so it has the potential to redraw the political map for
decades to come.
Dr. Michael S. Brown is a member of Doctors for Sensible Gun Laws; on the web
He may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org. His
archive on this website is at http://www.KeepAndBearArms.com/Brown.