Numbers don’t lie. Americans have a problem even worse than our expanding waistlines and obsession with pop stars: absurdly high violence. While numbers don’t lie, they also don’t explain why or how violence occurs. The solution to this problem probably is not a national anger-management course. Other ineffective but popular and superficially appealing ideas, like increased regulation of gun ownership, likely will not solve the enormous problem.
Rather, the most effective remedy does not directly relate to anger or weapons , and may not be apparent to the short-sighted observer. That remedy is legalizing drugs — legalizing all drugs in all quantities for all purposes, recreational or medical, for sale and consumption. By legalizing drugs and granting legal recognition to a major segment of the economy in many areas, the impetus for violence on the streets will rapidly dissipate.
First, to dispel myths about the urgency of gun control, we need only to show the highly mixed results of stiffened regulations in different parts of the country and globe. Among the top 10 states in gun murders (per 100k population) are several with restrictive gun controls and low (legal) gun ownership: Third-ranked Maryland has the seventh-most restrictive gun laws according to the Brady Campaign. Michigan and Pennsylvania are both among the 11 most regulated states and the top 10 states for gun murders. The most difficult state in which to purchase firearms, California, is in the top quarter of states for gun murders per 100,000 residents, and the District of Columbia has more restrictive gun laws than any state and more murders using guns per 100,000 residents than any state. Indeed, in many localities, legal restrictions on purchasing and carrying firearms seem only to worsen the problem of gun-related violence.
However, to avoid over-simplification, repealing regulations on firearms does not present a simple panacea to the tragic danger of American violence. As gun-control enthusiasts may rightly assert, several states with lax gun-control laws also have very high rates of gun-related violence: Specifically, Louisiana and Missouri suffer from the most gun-related violence per capita of any states in the country and also have relatively low levels of regulation.
Simply put, mandates from legislators on how folks ought to buy weapons cannot magically diminish or increase the savage propensity of Americans to attack one another. Regardless of laws, mere gun ownership does not directly cause violence, just as owning a pen does not cause writing and possessing a mind unfortunately does not always cause rational thought. Instead of focusing on symptoms, America must look to its internal crises, the institutions motivating frequent and bloody violence. Even a bandage that wholly eliminated guns would not ebb the flow of violent tendencies without treating the internal wound.
The violence is a direct result of the prohibition of the possession and sale of certain property: narcotics. Of all the violent acts that contribute to the above graph and to the staggering numbers of murders and assaults in the United States, there is one massive category rightfully excluded: the violence inflicted on wrongdoers by lawful police and corrections officers. When a criminal steals his neighbor’s car, the neighbor has recourse to the courts for justice, and the police typically apprehend the criminal and inflict a just punishment for this crime. However, when a criminal steals his neighbor’s ounce of pot — or 100 kilograms of cocaine — the neighbor has no recourse to the legal justice system of the state. Hence, where the “sanctioned” violence of the state is not an option, the rightful owner of the substances morally ought to resort to extra-legal means of restoring justice.
Indeed, almost universally, areas with persistently high stakes in the sale of illicit drugs have persistently high rates of violence. Michigan, Maryland, Illinois, and New York, plus the District of Columbia — all of which have one major population center with very large amounts of wealth devoted to the drug trade — are all in the top half of states in gun violence. Also, all of the states bordering Mexico or the Gulf of Mexico — California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas; and Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida — are among the top half of states in gun violence, and most are widely recognized as major transit points in international narcotics trafficking. Of note, one of the two OECD countries not included on this graph is Mexico, where violence is far more common than in the United States and a clear result of the drug war in that country. Correlation does not imply causation, but high correlation with the backing of a sound logical argument can.
As the most universally recognized duties of government include protecting citizens’ person and property, the failure of the government to defend property naturally encourages private citizens to create their own new “governments” whenever profitable, often with brutal methods of achieving “justice.” When Bush and Obama and their pals in Washington do not care to punish theft of private property, the Five Families of New York and the Sinaloa Cartel offer a lucrative alternative for securing property rights and punishing transgressors. In order to reduce the vile scourge of violence afflicting America, particularly in the most destitute parts of the country, our government must legalize narcotics and offer public legal recognition of the transactions already taking place in dark alleys and closed rooms every day.