Prohibition causes huge profit margins for dealers cause turf wars cause violence causes public concern causes calls to “do something” cause gun control. If you’re for prohibition, you are for gun control. That’s irrespective of the substance to be prohibited.
I posted that on Facebook yesterday, in response to one of my FB friends posting about the pot legalization law in Colorado. I want to expand on that statement a little, even though in its current form it’s pretty much distilled down into the TL;DR form already.
Prohibition of a desired substance or item always causes a black market, unless you have police powers and social controls similar to the German occupation forces in WWII Eastern Europe. (And the fact that even the Nazis were never able to fully suppress the black market for cigarettes and butter despite death penalties for “economic parasites” just shows how nigh-impossible it is to kill that sort of entrepreneurship.) The reason is simple: government prohibition of a desired good makes that good artificially expensive, and all the profits go to those willing to risk bucking the system. As the Prohibition was an effective price control and profit guarantee for bootleggers, hooch runners, and speakeasies, the current War on Some Drugs serves in the same fashion for pot growers, cocaine smugglers, and meth cooks. The risks are high, but when you pass a law that effectively puts a 10,000% profit margin on a simple plant product, you will always have plenty of people taking the risks involved in its manufacture and distribution. That’s a simple economic fact, and working against it is as pointless as working against gravity.
(It may not seem obvious from the position of a reasonably prosperous American suburbanite, but imagine I put an ad on Craigslist and offer twenty times the average annual U.S. salary to volunteers willing to smuggle twenty pounds of banned Earl Grey tea into a foreign country. How many takers do you think I would get per week? Answer that question to yourself, and you’ll realize why it’s utterly pointless when the DEA busts some scraggly smuggler at the border crossing with a few pounds of Colombian marching powder sewn into his car seat.)
Because people can make astronomical profits serving the market for the prohibited goods, turf wars between the suppliers are also inevitable. And because they’re all operating in an extralegal space already, they solve their competition issues in an extralegal way—gang violence. Prohibitions drive up the crime statistics directly (turf warfare between the gangs and syndicates involved), and indirectly (the ancillary crime related to the customers of those syndicates having to finance their purchases via property crime). Sooner or later, the public violence gets to a point where Joe and Jane Q. Public want Something To Be Done, and that something is often a push for arms control. The Prohibition violence brought us NFA ‘34, banning what were perceived the typical tools of the trade of gangsters: short-barreled shotguns and automatic weapons. (Machine guns got slapped with a tax rather than banned outright, but a $200 tax stamp on a gun retailing for less than half that in a time where the average annual wage is $1,300 is effectively a ban.) The 1994 Omnibus Crime Bill was a result of the drug wars of the 1980s and 1990s (and Joe and Jane Q. Public watching Miami Vice as a documentary). And that stuff is a mere inconvenience compared to the awful excesses of asset forfeiture laws, which have given police departments all over the country a financial incentive to outright steal property from citizens without the inconvenience of having to prove that a crime occurred.
It’s interesting how the same people who scoff at the notion that criminals won’t use guns if they’re banned can simultaneously hold the opinion that people will stop using or trading in drugs when they’re banned. They’ll use the same arguments the gun control crowd makes in favor of gun bans: at least it’ll be more difficult to get them, we can just come up with really draconian punishments for offenders, and doing nothing will make things worse. If that logic doesn’t apply to guns, why should it apply to drugs—which are easier to make and smuggle, and carry much higher profit margins? The rules of the market are what they are, and they don’t bend around a pet cause. And what if that “doing something” is in fact far worse than doing nothing? Gun control is unilateral disarmament of the law-abiding citizen in favor of the criminal. Drug prohibition is government-enforced price control for drug cartels, and a universal adaptor for an overreaching police state. Both cures are far more poisonous to the host than the problems they mean to fix. And the kicker is that support for the latter invariably results in getting more of the former.