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Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes

How serious are we about gun violence?

Not a day goes by without some politician, community leader or celebrity taking a principled stance against “gun violence.”

I really want to believe them and, for the sake of argument, let’s agree the issue of gun violence keeps them up at night and dominates their thoughts.

Then why is all the talk of legislation and regulations focused on a weapon class that accounts for a very small number of the overall gun violence? Why does it take a mass shooting in an area not traditionally associated with violence for anyone to care? Why does it take a victim in a certain class (rich), race (white) and age (young) for any of our “leaders” to suddenly start discussing gun violence?

And maybe the better question is, historically, what has had an impact on gun violence in the United States? Don’t worry, I have the answer.

The 21st Amendment. For those of you without a pocket Constitution, I’ll remind you it’s the amendment that repealed the 18th Amendment (the one the outlawed alcohol). History tells us that, when the “War on Alcohol” started, enterprising criminals smuggled, manufactured, distributed and sold booze to the masses. Quickly, conflicts between these criminals escalated into violence, much of it gun-related and led to a sharp spike in murders at the hand of a gun in almost every major metropolitan city.

Then a funny thing happened: Prohibition was repealed and almost overnight the rates of gun violence shrank in those very cities.

Fast forward to 2013 and the “War on Drugs” is playing out in an almost identical fashion. Real gun violence is happening daily, albeit with young, male minorities killing one another over the profits and power from the criminal drug trade, just like the mob did over alcohol 80 years ago. In some cities, officials say gun violence related to the illegal drug trade accounts for almost 90 percent of all murders with even “average” cities putting the number at nearly 50 percent.

You can argue the cost-benefit analysis of legalizing drugs and I happen to like that debate. But if you are arguing in favor of gun control, you are being disingenuous, and in some cases, downright ignorant, by ignoring fact that a vast majority of gun violence is a direct result of the our nation’s drug laws.


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