Thursday, February 21, 2013

Want fewer guns? Legalize more drugs.

This week there was an arrest for drug possession on the block we used to live on in Windsor - four people were arrested for having enough cocaine to be considered traffickers. Almost immediately friends and family started sending us notes to let us know. I received updates that they had guns in the house, too!

This is much more alarming to many of my friends than the presence of drugs, but if we want to be sympathetic observers we should consider the situation of the people in that house:

If your profession is selling something like cocaine, you are operating outside the law. You are more vulnerable to crimes like theft (you can't recover your goods through legal action) and assault (calling the police for protection is likely to get you thrown in jail if there's cocaine around your house). You have no legal means for protecting yourself because of the legal status of what you sell. To you, the police are enemies, not allies. Of course you would have guns in the house.

No doubt they will suffer stiffer criminal penalties because of the presence of guns in addition to cocaine in the house, but to channel Bryan Caplan, this is a problem that can be solved much more cheaply and humanely. If you want to reduce the number of people who have guns, especially people who have guns and know very little about gun safety, fix the incentives.

Treat people who are selling drugs as people who deserve the protection of the law - because in all other aspects of their lives, that's exactly what they are and what they would still be if they chose to sell almost any other good. Legalize (or at least decriminalize) drugs and focus on preventing and punishing violence.


Grumpy Old Man said...

Speaking as an old conservative, I'd like to see marijuana legalized. Hard drugs like crack and meth should be treated harshly with both sellers and users getting jail time, and use of guns in criminal activities should get automatic 'additional' jail time (measured in years, not months).
And your friends would have heart attacks if they knew how many guns I have in my house. Legal guns. Of course, where I live, every second house has two or three firearms... welcome to the north.

Janet Neilson said...

@Grumpy Old Man - you may be interested in my newest post and the situation in Portugal.