Skip to comments.Drug Control Begets Gun Control - The violence in Mexico is caused by prohibition, not firearms.
Posted on 04/22/2009 9:36:27 PM PDT by neverdem
During his visit to Mexico last week, President Obama suggested that Americans are partly to blame for the appalling violence associated with the illegal drug trade there. "The demand for these drugs in the United States is what's helping keep these cartels in business," he said. "This war is being waged with guns purchased not here but in the United States."
Obama is right that the U.S. is largely responsible for the carnage in Mexico, which claimed more than 6,000 lives last year. But the problem is neither the drugs Americans buy nor the guns they sell; it's the war on drugs our government insists the rest of the world help it fight. Instead of acknowledging the failure of drug control, the Obama administration is using it as an excuse for an equally vain attempt at gun control.
"More than 90 percent of the guns recovered in Mexico come from the United States," Obama claimed last week, repeating a favorite factoid of politicians who believe American gun rights endanger our southern neighbor's security. The claim has been parroted by many news organizations, including ABC, which used it in a 2008 story that suggested the sort of policy changes the number is meant to encourage. The story, which asked if "the Second Amendment [is] to blame" for "arming Mexican drug gangs," quoted a federal official who said, "It's virtually impossible to buy a firearm in Mexico as a private citizen, so this country is where they come."
But as Fox News and Factcheck.org have shown, the percentage cited by the president greatly exaggerates the share of guns used by Mexican criminals that were bought in the United States. Fox estimates it's less than a fifth, while Factcheck.org says it may be more like a third.
If the guns used by Mexican drug traffickers do not mainly come from gun dealers in the U.S., where do they come from? Many of the weapons are stolen from the Mexican military and police, often by deserters; some are smuggled over the border from Guatemala; others come from China by way of Africa or Latin America. Russian gun traffickers do a booming business in Mexico.
Given these alternatives, making it harder for Americans to buy guns, in the hope of preventing straw buyers from supplying weapons to smugglers, is not likely to stop Mexican gangsters from arming themselves. The persistence of the drug traffickers' main business, which consists of transporting and selling products that are entirely illegal on both sides of the border, should give pause to those who think they can block the flow of guns to the cartels.
The futile effort to stop Americans from consuming politically incorrect intoxicants is the real source of the violence in Mexico, since prohibition creates a market with artificially high prices and hands it over to criminals. "Because of the enormous profit potential," two senior federal law enforcement officials told(pdf) the Senate Judiciary Committee last month, "violence has always been associated with the Mexican drug trade as criminal syndicates seek to control this lucrative endeavor."
The more the government cracks down on the black market it created, the more violence it fosters, since intensified enforcement provokes confrontations with the police and encourages fighting between rival gangs over market opportunities created by arrests or deaths. "If the drug effort were failing," an unnamed "senior U.S. official" told The Wall Street Journal in February, "there would be no violence."
Perhaps it is time to redefine failure. Three former Latin American presidents, including Mexico's Ernesto Zedillo, recently noted(pdf) that "we are farther than ever from the announced goal of eradicating drugs." The attempt to achieve that impossible dream, they observed, has led to "a rise in organized crime," "the corruption of public servants," "the criminalization of politics and the politicization of crime," and "a growth in unacceptable levels of drug-related violence."
Instead of importing Mexico's prohibitionist approach to guns, we should stop exporting our prohibitionist approach to drugs.
Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason and a nationally syndicated columnist.
© Copyright 2009 by Creators Syndicate Inc.
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Thanks for the ping!
George Santayana summed up the situation very well when he talked about the lessons of history. I don’t use or approve of drug use, but it seems to me that our “cure” has proven worse than the disease. As long as that crap brings huge profits, the people who smuggle and peddle it, with all the attendant violence and corruption will be there.
Mexico needs to adopt the 2nd Amendment into their constitution and declare open season on the drug cartels.
That problem would cease in a heartbeat.
Legalizing such drugs will have the effect of opening season on dealers and addicts, who commit other crimes whether the drugs are legal or not. They are no better than animal pests.
Sure. Go ahead. Just don’t cry, when they are providing light for your streets.
There were drug problems during the earlier part of the last Century, and those were dealt with by our better recent ancestors with tougher measures and less tolerance. ...two or three decades essentially clean.
Sullum sounds like an old hippie who wants cheap fixes.
Perhaps he is part of the problem, not part of the solution.
He writes for “Reason”? In what world?
What are you talking about? Drugs were legal in the US from colonial times until the early 1900s. According to the usdoj's website, we have worse addiction now than in 1900:
"By 1900, about one American in 200 was either a cocaine or opium addict." [1 in 200 = 0.5%]
"There were an estimated 980,000 hardcore heroin addicts in the United States in 1999, 50 percent more than the estimated 630,000 hardcore addicts in 1992."
"Among those using cocaine in the United States during 2000, 3.6 million were hardcore users who spent more than $36 billion on the drug in that year."
The US population in 2000 was about 280,000,000. So the combined addiction rate was about 1.6% in 2000 vs 0.5% in 1900.
At the beginning of the Great Depression, there was a lot of public resentment against the importation of cheap Mexican labor, BTW. But as of 1931, 29 states had outlawed marijuana.
I thought drug killings began with drug prohibition.
...RRRReal good idea. Anyone that “looks” like a dealer or user, kill em’ and then ask questions???
So why continue to pursue it? Why ban some drugs, some guns, some anything... ? Because the conflict it causes gives the government an excuse to build its bureaucracy, its centralized control, and its ever-growing militarization of police. To what good end? There is none. Ungood ends, on the other hand...
I'll let Patrick Henry answer that...from his 'give me liberty' rant...
"...for my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth -- to know the worst and to provide for it. I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided; and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years, to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves and the House?
Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received? Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with these warlike preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation -- the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motives for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies?
No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us; they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we anything new to offer on the subject? Nothing..."
local podunk leos are now loaded out with all the latest paramilitary gadgets for use against the civilian population, and do so regularly across the country...
the WOsD really is a simple war on freedom, one that has been declared and actively fought for a long long time...
We could take 10,000-20,000% profit out of drugs by ending the unConstitutional Drug War on top of it.
Be Ever Vigilant!
It's no different than the Prohibition era, when the sale of illegal booze fueled the rise of organized crime in America.
De-criminalize drugs and poof! There go all the illegal profits and the organized crime industry that exists solely for those profits.
You dubbed that in. I never said that.