By Tom Rhodes, 12/9/2011
Anti-gun types are using the very tragic and horrible deaths of totally innocent children killed with stray bullets from drive-by shootings as a rationale to call for more restrictions on private gun ownership. Drive-by deaths are horrible tragic events, with totally innocent victims. The tragedy of such cannot be overstated. The cure proposed by progressives with good hearts is however baseless. It ignores basic cost benefit analysis, consideration of the causes, and consideration of what the unintended consequences may be. Deaths by drive-by shootings are rare, much rarer than the instance of citizens using firearms to protect themselves from crime. Around 2 million times a year people use firearms to protect themselves from criminals. The unintended cost of removing arms from citizens will not be a reduction in drive-by shootings but will be more crime.
What progressives fail to even try to address is the cause of drive-by shootings. Drive by shootings are not new, they are a staple of gangster movies depicting the events of prohibition from almost a century ago. Who hasn't seen a movie adaptation of a Tin-Lizzy rambling down a Chicago street with gangsters Tommy-Guns blazing out the window at their rivals? The question progressives should be asking is why these events occur. Most typically drive-by shootings are a drug gang seeking justice from another. Just as during prohibition, gangs resort to violence to settle their differences. The problem then as now is the same; Government interfering with the free and voluntary exchange of goods that forces those goods onto the black market. People selling and buying on the black market have no societal methodology to redress their grievances; hence it is Government, not guns, which caused the problem.
Consider beer; it is a mind altering product which is legal with reasonable restrictions (age to purchase, quality, etc). Beer is freely traded between producers and consumers. It is a product that can easily be made at home, and has been in use from before man recorded history. Man has always used and seeks mind altering substances, the use of which does not infringe upon the rights of any other person. When was the last time you saw a shootout over a beer deal gone bad? You don't, why? Because people purchasing and selling beer can and do have access to the legal system to redress their grievances. If you are sold bad batch of skunky beer that is undrinkable, and the seller fails to replace the product or refund your money, you can take that person to court. Our duly established government protects your right to receive the product promised for the price agreed upon; contract law to be exact. If however the government made beer illegal, people would be forced to purchase it on the black market. The problem is now that it's on the black market, if there is a disagreement between the seller and buyer, they no longer have access to courts to redress their problems; sellers and buyers are forced to redress their problems on their own. Sellers of products that are on the black market cannot use the police or courts to report stolen goods so must depend upon their own ability to provide security and enforce justice. The logical result is gangs, gang wars, graft, corruption, poor product quality, high prices, and violence in the streets. We saw this during prohibition, we see it now. Government banning people from purchasing products they want always results in black markets and the associated gang violence and problems. Even the old Soviet Union had these same problems with all kinds of goods that the government controlled rather than the free market. I like many others have stock piled 100watt light bulbs, hoping to benefit from the black market that will soon exist. I should see a 1000% profit, simply by having a product people want that the government has outlawed.
The solution to drive-by shootings is not disarming law abiding citizens, it is to eliminate the reason for gang warfare; eliminate the need to spend $15Billion per year in law enforcement; eliminate the root cause. Legalize drugs just as we legalized beer, and we will see huge benefits including reduction of our prison population by over 50%, and a sharp decrease in violent crime. This is not to say that hat legalization of drugs implies approval of drug use. Ending the war on drugs does not mean endorsing drug use, any more than ending prohibition meant endorsing alcohol consumption.
The Downside to legalization is that it may result in some increase in drug addiction. We did see an uptick in alcoholism after Prohibition was repealed. But the claim that drug legalization will lead to massive addiction has not been realized in those countries, like Portugal, who de-criminalized drugs. The child killed in a drive-by shoot-out between drug gangs is a total victim. The adult who decides to take drugs is not. We can agree that there will be some Americans, who will become addicts after legalization, who otherwise might not, however we must also consider if preventing those addictions is worth the terrible price we are now paying, in police costs, whole segments of our population incarcerated, international drug control efforts, border security, foregone tax revenue, overdose deaths, corruption and violence.
It is plainly obvious that drive-by shootings, and the violence we see across the country is not acceptable. People with good hearts want to do something, to take some action to stop such a senseless waste of human potential. The knee jerk reaction that if we just got rid of the guns the violence would not happen is misguided. Guns simply equalize the weak and the strong. Like a baseball bat, crow bar, hammer, machete', chain, or knife, a gun is just a tool which can be used for good or evil. Outlawing the ownership or possession of a tool, will not achieve the desired results, just as outlawing drugs is a failure outlawing guns will be a failure. People will purchase on the black market what they need and want if the government restricts those items from the free market. To end this kind of violence, as exemplified in drive-by shootings, we need to end the reason that it occurs. That reason is government interfering and making criminal the products that people wish to voluntarily purchase. It's not the tool used in the drive-by that is the problem, it's the inability of people to use legal means to redress their grievances (police and courts) because of government regulations, which forces them to seek justice at their own hands.
It is a shame that there are good hearted people who only see more government as a solution to problems caused by the government. Progressives never consider that eliminating the government from interfering with the free voluntary exchanges in goods and services that don't infringe upon the rights of others as an acceptable solution to problems that were cause by government interference in the first place. From the Drug War to the Mortgage Meltdown, government interference with free markets has had disastrous and expensive unintended results for everybody. Wishing that the tool (firearms) used in violence were removed would stop the violence is naive and misguided; the cause of the violence is not the tool but the government regulations. Nowhere in history has society ever been able to stop people from using mind altering substances. Some people want to impose their idea of how others should live on all of society and their belief that such laws will make things better has never worked and never will. The one thing that does work, is protecting the rights of all individual equally, and allowing individuals to make decisions on how best to live their lives so long as they don't infringe upon the rights of others while allowing them to benefit or suffer the consequences of those decisions, has proven to be best for everybody. Making arms illegal, does neither, and infringes upon individual's right to self defense. The idea that getting rid of guns is a solution to any problem we have is absurd, not well thought out, based on emotion not fact, and if implemented doomed to fail, as it has every where it's been tried. Drive-by shootings are just one unintended consequence of government interference in free markets.