While reading a recent letter to the editor of the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch entitled “Make life tougher for the lawbreakers,” regarding gun violence and gun control, I could not help but laugh when I read his concluding statement “Stop the drug flow and most of the gun violence will end.” And no, it wasn’t because I was stoned. The article’s author places blame of America’s love affair with guns and the associated violence they cause on the use of illegal drugs, which is a little like blaming a child’s teacher for the failing grade on their report card.
Every day in America, two hundred and eighty-nine people are shot by firearms. Eighty-six of these people die. Of these eighty-six deaths, thirty are murdered, fifty-three commit suicide, two are shot accidentally and one person dies from being shot by the police. I do agree with the writer in that violence is definitely associated with the illegal drug trade, most notably in Mexico where nearly one hundred thousand deaths have occurred since 2006, however it is not the drugs that is the source of the violence, it is their illegality. To prove my point, one need only look back to this nation’s other attempt to outlaw its citizens’ craving of mind altering substances, that being alcohol. During Prohibition, organized crime and corruption became so rampant, and shoot-outs involving gangsters armed with automatic weapons, especially the Thompson submachine gun, so prevalent, especially in Chicago, that Congress passed the National Firearms Act on June 26, 1934, outlawing ownership of automatic weapons.
Over the past one hundred years, many nations have attempted to prohibit the use of both alcohol and drugs, to no avail. People will always find a way to pursue their vices. President Richard Nixon declared a war on drugs in 1971 and forty years later what are the results? Billions of dollars wasted and the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. One million Americans are incarcerated each year for drug offenses, with marijuana comprising one-half of all arrests. When the Reagan administration began using the CIA and the U.S. military in the attempt to stop the flow of drugs into the country, the drug cartels soon realized it was much easier and far more lucrative to import pounds of cocaine instead of tons of marijuana. The end result was the cocaine and crack epidemic of the 1980s.
I am not condoning the use of any drugs, including alcohol. However, to incarcerate one adult for smoking a joint while another drinks their martini is asinine. All prohibition does is to drive up the price and bring in the criminal element. History proves time and again that the prohibition of anything has never worked.
Steven H. Spring