Want to Stop Gun Violence? End The War On Drugs


By Jay Stooksberry

Every December 5th, American beer, wine, and spirit enthusiasts celebrate Repeal Day. It was on this day in 1933 that the United States officially passed the 21st Amendment, effectively ending the failed “noble experiment” known as Prohibition. This was not only a good day for liberty and libations; it also marked the end of a violent era in American history.

The transport and sale of illicit booze became a prolific criminal enterprise backed by well-armed, violent gangs. The result: a homicide rate in the United States that steadily climbed between 1920 and 1933. In addition, the rise of “victimless crimes”—namely, consumption or possession of alcohol—added to the already overburdened judicial system. Furthermore, alcohol consumption—what Prohibition laws sought to minimize—actually increased nearly 70 percent.

To call Prohibition a failure would be an understatement.

This time we call it the “War on Drugs,” and its impact is even more deadly.

Repealing Prohibition destroyed the monopoly on alcohol maintained by organized crime. Disempowering the black market produced a noticeable decline in the homicide rate. In fact, homicides continued to diminish each year for eleven years straight.

Prohibition All Over Again

Fast forward 82 years, and we are in the midst of Prohibition 2.0. This time we call it the “War on Drugs,” and its impact is even more deadly.

If concerned citizens want to get serious about reducing gun violence, then they should be encouraged to focus less on policies that are ineffective—“assault weapons” bansgun buyback programs, and outright confiscation—and focus more on ending our failed, four-decade long, overly-militarized, trillion-dollar battle against narcotics.

Let’s put gun violence into perspective. There is no doubt that gun violence is a problem. Guns are used in nearly three-fourths of all American homicides.

What typically brings gun control to the forefront of our political dialogue is the recurring tragedy of a mass shooting. However, mass shootings receive a disproportionate amount of media attention considering how much they actually contribute to our national homicide rate.

According to Mass Shooting Tracker, in 2014, mass shooting incidents resulted in the deaths of 383 people—about 3% of total gun homicides for the year. In comparison, the violence caused by the Drug War overshadows the bloodshed of mass shootings. Though difficult to quantify due to inconsistent reporting, estimates of drug-related homicides reach as high as 50 percent of the total homicides in the United States.

Though recent tragic events shock the collective conscious, it is important to consider them in perspective of what is truly killing so many people. The War on Drugs is less of a spectacle than these mass shootings; instead, it is a slow-killing, institutionalized type of violence.

Predictable Black Market Violence

Without legal mechanisms in place, the only option for arbitration in the black market is violence. This violence takes many forms: turf wars between drug suppliers where civilians are also caught in the crossfire; no-knock police raids (sometimes occurring at the wrong house) where suspects are gunned down; drug addicts assaulting others to secure money for their addiction. The multi-faceted nature of the violence makes the task of fully grasping the available data difficult.

The violence of the American Drug War has even spilled over internationally—primarily in Latin America. Between 2007 and 2014, Mexican authorities estimates that 164,000 homicides were the result of cartel violence. For perspective, during the same time period, civilian deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq totaled 103,000 combined.

A Way Forward

How the Drug War is to be dismantled is open for debate; deescalating law enforcement militarization, emphasizing treatment over incarceration, decriminalizing certain substances, or outright legalization are all on the table for consideration.

Despite our backwardness regarding most drug policies, the United States is ahead of most of the international community when it comes to the legalization of cannabis—and we are witnessing some of the positive effects of those efforts.

Colorado legalized recreational marijuana with Amendment 64 in 2013, resulting in a “green rush” of population growth. Despite the increase in population, Denver police reports indicate a drop in overall crime, including a 24 percent drop in reported homicides.

Granted, the Colorado experiment with legalized marijuana and its benefits is still new. Plus, it is difficult to demonstrate correlation with such a small sample of data. However, there is a distinct correlation between increased policing of controlled substances and the escalating violence of the black market in those substances. The Independence Institute examined arrest and homicide rates throughout the 20th century and concluded that the greatest contributor to violence is “a violent black market caused by the War on Drugs today, and Prohibition in the 1920’s.”

A Terrible Investment

Even if we ignored the violence inherent in this failed policy, the War on Drugs would still be considered a complete waste of public resources. The United States has invested close to a trillion dollars in drug-related law enforcement over the past four decades.

And what was the return on investment? A black market valued at $100 billion annually and a drug use rate that is the highest in the world.

Einstein defined insanity as repeating a specific action and expecting different results. If that’s the case, our current Drug War is—in the words of Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance—the “international projection of a domestic psychosis.”

If we choose to continue down this costly and deadly path, we will continue to reap what we sowed over 82 years ago during our first failed experiment with prohibition: increased use of the banned substance, increased burden of cost on public coffers, and increased loss of life—all due to failed policy.

Jay Stooksberry is a freelance writer with a passion for liberty, skepticism, humor, and whiskey. When he’s not writing for FEE.org where this article first appeared, he splits his time between marketing consultation and spending time with his wife and son. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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12 Comments on "Want to Stop Gun Violence? End The War On Drugs"

  1. Thats one of the biggest reasons for the war on drugs, to use it to take away your rights, to help bring about a cashless society, and to help the growth of more police and surveillance . And to make sure the govt. drug running was not harmed by competition. Think about this those that told you they needed a war on drugs, and told you they can win it, cannot even control drugs in a controlled environment like prisons and they wanted us to bekive they could do it in an uncontrolled environment, Who’s the laughing stock in this scenario.

    • the war on drugs? fast and furious where eric holder and oboma make deals with the drug cartels with payments of weapons? then try to use the gun sales to create reasons for gun control. go figure. the CIA has been running drugs since Vietnam and some coming back from Afghanistan tell us that the only reason we are over there is to patrol the roads to the hoppy fields so the farmers can get their crops in.

  2. End the war for narcotics and cocaine.

    • Good idea! Not only will the addicted OFF themselves and thin the herd, the prison population will drop dramatically. Prices for the crap will drop low enough for the homeless to afford it and OFF themselves which leads to the answer of the homeless problem. It will lead to more jobs for funeral home services. YadaYadaYada! I guess you see the point. We all win!

  3. It’s a start but you’ll never stop negros being negros

  4. I think there is a slight confusion here. The people who run America love concentration of wealth and monopolies of products and services. While the temperance movement was strong and influential, the conflagration of interest that enacted prohbition were more concerned with destroying local alcohol production and replacing it with centralized (criminal) production and distribution. Once prohibition was lifted, criminal organizations became legitimate with financial wherewithal to destroy the remaining competition, which has continued to the present time. Don’t believe me, consider the Bronfman family and the Seagram distilleries empire. With hired thugs they transformed into gangsters and moved booze from Canada to and through the United States. Like all smart businessmen they deversified and invested their ill-gotten loot into other enterprises, like every would-be oligarch should do. Sixty years later had the “family” had the funds to manufacture the political career of John McCain in Arizona. The current situation is the complete reverse. The pharamaceutical industy (concentrated gangster wealth) and their acolytes currently have a monopoly and are fighting tooth and nail to preserve it. The beneficial aspects of marijuana and other medicinal plants are a direct threat to their cash stream and comfortable lifestyle. The war on drugs is a new cash stream supplement thier already enormous bank accounts. There is only way the war on drugs will end. The modern financial gangster have to be given the monopoly on marijuana and other medicnal natural plants and foods. Until then, the money is good and nobody really cares about the lives lost as part of the phony war.

  5. As a physician, I would have all drugs, and I mean all, legal and over the counter. If one goes to the many other countries (except western) most of the drugs are over the counter, and without the US influence, all drugs were over the counter. For the most part, I have found that few people want to get high on drugs, people want to be normal and it is illness be it physical or mental illness that pushes people into using drugs.
    The reason western nations want the person to go to a doctor and get a prescription and then go to the pharmacy, is just MONEY, and nothing else.
    I have found humans to be very smart and for the most part, people make good decisions, they just need education, on the products and the options for solutions. If all drugs were legalized, I would say there would be less problems, and by a lot. In my opinion, people that think street drugs should be illegal, they are involved with the illegal drug trade, there is no other benefit.
    Legalize all drugs, people are smart and will make the right decision and problems associated with drug addiction, sales, and distribution will be gone.

    • Over the counter purchase of antibiotics in Asia, plus uncontrolled application in animal feed, is the reason we’re on the brink of losing them altogether in the fight against disease.But yeah, as for the rest of them, why not?

  6. I agree. Prohibition is great for Organized Crime. Believe me I know, and, thanks, by the way, for the 20th amendment. There have certainly been ups and downs but the 20s and 30s were good for this emigrant family (who came from a little island in the Mediterranean) who are now above average wealthy. I would just hope that today’s fore bearers of the “War on Drug’s” Organized Criminal element invest their money wisely.

  7. There would be no war on drugs if biblical law were the foundation for America’s government and society:

    “…Because Yahweh’s law does not altogether prohibit alcohol or drugs, the answer is not to make them illegal as the Eighteenth Amendment (and church edict) did. Just as Amendment 18 was inept at controlling
    alcoholic consumption, so are current drug regulations. Responsible use should be promoted by punishing only those who cause harm to another person or his property. For example, instead of attempting to curb drunk driving by prohibiting excessive alcohol consumption, any drunk driver convicted of causing or contributing to the death of an innocent person should be put to death or forced to pay whatever the next of kin requires as ransom for his life. If the injured or disabled party does not die, the convicted felon (instead of an insurance company) should be compelled to pay for medical expenses and financial compensation for lost wages during convalescence. This compensation should be in addition to an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or the required ransom. If the perpetrator cannot pay the required compensation, he is to be indentured until his debt is paid.12 Lex talionis not only promotes personal responsibility, it eliminates the need for the insurance industry.

    “Man’s efforts to control alcohol and drug abusers have been wholly ineffective. When Yahweh’s law is enforced and convicted murderers are put to death, society never suffers from repeat offenders after someone is killed as the result of drunken carelessness. If someone is killed, injured, or disabled as the
    consequence of another person’s irresponsible use of drugs, the punishment should correspond to the death, injury, or damage to the victim and their property. Today’s ineffective drug and alcohol laws
    have, in many instances, made criminals out of people who have hurt no one but themselves. This has forced innocent taxpayers to pay for the housing, feeding, and entertaining of people who should never have been imprisoned.13 Yahweh’s law makes people personally responsible for their actions, and
    His judgments substantially reduce both premeditated crime and careless disregard for the lives and property of others. A downsized and smaller government is an additional benefit of lex talionis. Federal
    agencies such as OSHA, the FDA, and the FAA are superfluous under Biblical law. The oversight of a speedy trials and the administration of the proper judgments are the only government intervention required in liability cases.”

    For more, see online Chapter 27 “Amendment 18: Prohibition: Repealed for Good Reason” of “Bible Law vs. the United States Constitution: The Christian Perspective.” Click on my picture, then our website. Go to our Online Books page, click on the top entry, and scroll down to Chapter 27.

    Then find out how much you REALLY know about the Constitution as compared to the Bible. Take our 10-question Constitution Survey in the right-hand sidebar and receive a complimentary copy of a book that EXAMINES the Constitution by the Bible.

  8. Enforce Yahweh’s moral standards & the vast majority of problems period – would succumb to self-regulation.

  9. It would help IF everyone got SERIOUS about the war on drugs an SHUT DOWN THE southern border. THAT IS the drug pipeline. STOP IT THERE!

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