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December 20, 2012

"Empirical evidence suggests a sure fire way to dramatically lower gun homicides: repeal drug laws"

Homicides-1900-20062The title of this post is drawn from the title of this lengthy must-read post by Dan Kahan over at The Cultural Cognition Project blog. The post not only satiates my desire to have some distinct (and seemingly more productive) discussions about gun violence in the wake of the Newtown massacre than being provided by traditional media outlets, but it also makes a bunch of points that ought to be of interest to all persons on all sides of the tired-old gun-control debates. Dan's terrific post should be read in full, and I hope this taste (with some of his many links) will encourage everyone to click through to it:

I now want to point out that in fact, while the empirical evidence on the relationship between gun control and homicide is (at this time at least) utterly inconclusive, there certainly are policies out there that we have very solid evidence to believe would reduce gun-related homicides very substantially.

The one at the top of the list, in my view, is to legalize recreational drugs such as marijuana and cocaine.

The theory behind this policy prescription is that illegal markets breed competition-driven violence among suppliers by offering the prospect of monopoly profits and by denying them lawful means for enforcing commercial obligations.

The evidence is ample.  In addition to empirical studies of drug-law enforcement and crime rates, it includes the marked increase in homicide rates that attended alcohol prohibition and the subsequent, dramatic deline of it after repeal of the 18th Amendment.

Actually, it's pretty interesting to look at homicide rates over a broader historical time frame than typically is brought into view by those who opportunistically crop the picture in one way or another to support their position for or against gun control.  What you see is that there is a pretty steady historical trend toward decline in the US punctuated by expected noisy interludes but also by what appear to be some genuine, and genuinely dramatic, jumps & declines.

One of the jumps appears to have occurred with the onset of prohibition and one of the declines with repeal of prohibition. Social scientists doing their best to understand the evidence generally have concluded that that those are real shifts, and that they really were caused by prohibition and repeal.

Criminologists looking at the impact of drug prohibition can use the models developed in connection with alcohol prohibition and other modeling strategies to try to assess the impact of drug prohibition on crime.  Obviously the evidence needs to be interpreted, supports reasonable competing interpretations, and can never do more than justify provisional conclusions, ones that are necessarily subject to revision in light of new evidence, new analyses, and so forth.

But I'd say the weight of the evidence pretty convincingly shows that drug-related homicides generated as a consequence of drug prohibition are tremendously high and account for much of the difference in the homicide rates in the U.S. and those in comparable liberal market societies....

There is a very interesting empirical study, though, by economist Jeffrey Miron, who concludes that the available evidence is consistent with the hypothesis that the difference in homicide rates in the US and in other liberal market societies is attributable to our drug prohibition policies.  Gun availability in the US, according to this hypothesis, doesn't directly account for the difference in homicide rates between the US and these countries; rather, gun availability mediates the impact between drug prohibition and homicide rates in the US, because the criminogenic properties of drug prohibition create both a demand to murder competitors and a demand for guns to use for that purpose....

Repealing drug laws would do more -- much, much, much more -- than banning assault rifles (a measure I would agree is quite appropriate); barring carrying of concealed handguns in public (I'd vote for that in my state, if after hearing from people who felt differently from me, I could give an account of my position that fairly meets their points and doesn't trade on tacit hostility toward or mere incomprehension of whatever contribution owning a gun makes to their experience of a meaningful free life); closing the "gun show" loophole; extending waiting periods etc.  Or at least there is evidence for believing that, and we are entitled to make policy on the best understanding we can form of how the world works so long as we are open to new evidence and aren't otherwise interfering with liberties that we ought, in a liberal society, to respect.

Prior related posts following Newton masacre:

December 20, 2012 at 01:45 PM | Permalink


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No.. Cannot legalize Cocaine ever... What needs to be done is to address the mental health problem this country has.. Starting with the parents, right on down to the young children... People don't have scruples anymore, listen to the filthy language... Male and Female both...Even if they're educated..

Cleanup the movies and what shown on TV...Get rid of the violent type video games and have physical exercise.. What a novel idea, kids playing baseball instead of smacking back and forth on, cell phones ipads, etc. you name it...

Its kind of built in.. Look at Road Rage... Obamas new gun control bill hes gonna introduce next month
will be more of the same... More laws that impose more restrictions on 99.99% of the people that are never a problem... Fix the root problem, its built into the fabric of people these days...

More prisons, longer sentences are not the way to go... Its pretty simple actually.. But just try abnd get Congress and Boehner to agree on anything these days thats worthwhile... Ah Ha....See where I'm coming from.. Its actually spread to the leaders of our country...

Lets face it, republicans only have 1 agenda goal. REpeal Obama care at all costs.. Therefore they refuse to work with the Dems to get anything meningful done... Ok, I've beat this horse way to long..

Posted by: Midwest Guy | Dec 20, 2012 2:26:00 PM

Just to be a little cranky about this, if you think banning "assault weapons" is appropriate, then would you be so kind as to define "assault weapon"? The technical term refers to fully-automatic weapons, which have been largely banned in the US since 1934. The legal term of art refers primarily to guns Diane Feinstein thought looked scary.

Bob Owens at PJ Media has a good piece on this: http://pjmedia.com/blog/assault-weapons-ban/

Posted by: Charlie (Colorado) | Dec 20, 2012 2:35:36 PM

"...banning assault rifles ..."

Assault rifles are already banned. The term "assault weapon" has no meaning outside anti-gun regulation. Such weapons are not significantly different than other weapons, and the last ban actually increased sales of similar weapons slightly adjusted to comply with the laws.

Posted by: Doubting Rich | Dec 20, 2012 3:43:54 PM

A better case can be made that the murder rate is, roughly, inversely proportional to imposition of the death penalty, but that's not my main point. My main point is that it's somewhere between atrocious and contemptible to exploit the carnage in Newtown for the purpose of -- guess what -- advancing the pothead agenda that's been going on for decades before anyone ever heard of Newtown.

The article is useful for one thing, however: The legalizer mask slipped for a moment. Thus, the article states, "The one at the top of the list, in my view, is to legalize recreational drugs such as marijuana and cocaine."

Oooooops. There's that nasty cocaine -- not that it's going to stop there, either. Meth and heroin are also recreational drugs; indeed, the only purpose for taking them is to get a big rush.

So our author thinks that lives forfeited (and even more lives ruined) by addiction and overdose deaths from the whole menu of recreational drugs are less worthy than the lives taken by murderous drug pushers.

Gosh, how did he decide that?

No, wait, I'd prefer not to know.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 20, 2012 4:16:42 PM

Bill, to start, you should check your execution data, as the US numbers on both the total are rate of executions was at its historic peak from 1900 to 1935, which is also when the US had a spike in homicide rates:

More on point, I do not think it is fair to accuse Kahan of trying to "exploit the carnage in Newtown" to push a legalization agenda, and I hope you had read his full post before jumping to that conclusion. More broadly, I do not think anyone eager to have a robust public policy discourse after Newtown --- whether pro or anti-gun; pro- or anti-drugs; pro- or anti-violence in pop culture --- is seeking to "exploit" carnage: rather I think we are all having a (healthy) human reaction to a mass killing by trying to figure out whether anything can be done by society and its governments to prevent or reduce these kinds of events in the future.

Further, Bill, your disaffinity for drug legalization continues to evade engagement with the enduring failed American experience with alcohol prohibition despite considerable evidence of still growing numbers of "lives forfeited (and even more lives ruined) by addiction and overdose deaths" from America's most favorite and most abused recreational drug. The crux of this post is that there is more empirical evidence of links between product prohibition and murder rates than between gun laws and murder rates. Do you dispute the empirical evidence or are you saying we should not consider such evidence if we find its implications distasteful.

Finally, if/when you tell me you are very sorry we repealed alcohol prohibition and hope the feds would now add alcohol to the list of Schedule 1 drugs in the CSA and thereby return to criminalizing this recreational drug, then I will believe you are truly motivated only by consequentialist concerns for "lives forfeited (and even more lives ruined) by addiction and overdose deaths" to recreational drugs. But until then, and especially in light of prior comments about the harms of big government, I am inclined to conclude you principally dislike the people who like pot rather than having a strong view that the feds ought to embrace/expand a nanny state approach to regulation to prohibit every and any substance and activity --- ranging from beer drinking to driving gas-guzzling big cars to Big Gulps --- that some group might conclude causes more harm than good.

Posted by: Doug B. | Dec 20, 2012 4:51:14 PM

Not to pile on too much, but you lose everyone who is actually knowledgeable about guns at all when you talk about banning "assault weapons" or "assault rifles" (both points already covered in other comments). At that point, we wonder how crazy your other "quite appropriate" suggestions are, once the details are known.

For just one more example, the "gun show loophole" doesn't actually exist (and hasn't in years) - firearms dealers are required to do the same checks where ever they do business. People who are NOT firearms dealers (defined by how many guns you sell each year) are NOT required to do so where ever they do the occasional business (much like the differences in car dealers vs private sales), and indeed, to do otherwise would tremendously, enormously burden a fundamental right.

Those are "liberties that we ought, in a liberal society, to respect." You seem quite comfortable with not respecting them.

Of course, your primary point is something that has been obvious for decades (as you point out), so I don't see how simply pointing it out would make any difference - the people that call for gun control pay no attention to actual empirical data.

Posted by: Deoxy | Dec 20, 2012 4:54:39 PM

Doug, here is an anecdote illustrating how true the article's premise is. I talked with a drug dealer in prison serving a sentence of life without parole for shooting another drug dealer in a driveby shooting. The guy I was speaking with fronted another person sixty thousand dollars to buy drugs and who then took off with the money.

The first drug dealer goes hunting the second drug dealer down and when he finds him, shoots him dead. As we were talking the first drug dealer says to me, "It wasn't the sixty thousand dollars, I can make that back in a month. He just took advantage of me."

I have said many, many times to folks that the best way to reduce the crime rate is to take the enormous economic incentive out of dealing drugs. I'm on the school board here and how are we supposed to keep a dropout in school if he can go out and make more in a weekend than most folks make in a month?


Posted by: bruce cunningham | Dec 20, 2012 4:54:57 PM

As other commentators have already remarked, "assault rifle" is a term of art, in the sense that it is whatever the law says it is, and gun manufacturers and designers have been quite skilled at working around the definition, which was based on cosmetics. Your point about legalization of marijuana and I would suggest medicalization of cocaine, heroin, and the like, would probably go a long way towards reducing gun violence in the US. Apparently some 40-80% of homicide victims are criminals, and reducing the number of young men that get caught up in the criminal world and justice system would would help. However, why has the drug trade not resulted in similar levels of violence in Canada, Europe, and the UK? That suggests that there are other, important things going on as well.

As for concealed carry, I am for it. So far, the evidence suggests that such guns are not misused at any higher rate than are guns in the possession of police. (The only clearly identified body that should not be issued concealed carry permits are Mayor Bloomberg's Mayors against Gun Violence, where the felony rate of the members appears to be about 2%, several orders of magnitude greater than the rate among CCP holders.) I would also do away with the notion of a "gun-free zone". Notice how often these mass gun-based murders are in "gun-free zones". The killers may be crazy, but they are not stupid. In a gun-free zone they have a six (Nickel Mines) to 20 minute (Newtown) window in which to carry out their murders before the police arrive. (That is long enough, by the way, to change a lot of 10-round magazines.)

Lastly, the largest mass murders in US history have involved bombs, not guns. Oklahoma City resulted in 169 deaths, including that of 19 children in the on-site kindergarten. Also, it is only a matter of time before someone takes an SUV, fortifies it, and drives onto a playground or soccer field.

FYI: I am a non-law academic and I got here via Instapundit.

Posted by: Acad Ronin | Dec 20, 2012 5:00:23 PM

Doug --

1. Execution data from 1900-1935 are from a different era, so much so that they might as well be from a different country. The far more relevant data are from the last generation, and those date support my conclusion. As executions resumed in significant numbers in the late 80's (and have continued), the murder rate has plummeted.

2. Same deal with drug laws. As drug laws, and particularly the mandatory minimums associated with them took hold in the 80's, the murder rate plummeted. This hardly suggests drug laws are responsible for murder; if they were, the murder rate would have gone UP after the drug laws got some teeth.

3. As to whether the author is trying to exploit the Newtown massacre, all I can say is that, if he isn't, his timing is flat-out remarkable. He just HAPPENS to come out now saying that the way to reduce gun violence, which just HAPPENS to be on everyone's mind since Newtown, is to legalize drugs. My goodness.

4. Of course the main legalizer song gets sung to marijuana (the hard drugs being a harder case and therefore kept mostly out of sight). What the author overlooks is that the pot trade within the USA is much less violent than the trade in the harder drugs. In my many years as an AUSA, I never had a case where people were shooting down competing pot dealers. The culture of that drug is different from the culture of the harder drugs. Thus, even if there were pot legalization -- which is the only kind even remotely likely -- it would do practically nothing to reduce gun violence in the drug world. You'd have to legalize the harder drugs to do that.

Are you advocating such legalization?

5. Questioning my motives is just not something I'm going to get provoked by. I am more open in revealing my identity and personal and professional background than any other commenter on this blog. My career is an open book. I served both political parties in their efforts against drugs, pot and all the rest. If you think this makes my motives suspicious, you need to have the same suspicion about Obama, Bush, Clinton and Reagan.

It is not up to me to have motives approved by the pot lobby. It is up to citizens to obey democratically enacted law until, by peaceful persuasion, they get it changed.

There will be a new Congress sworn in next month, and the legalization lobby is welcome to try again. Good luck, guys.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 20, 2012 5:26:41 PM

Mr Otis, let us assume that people are going to be killed in activities related to drugs. Given that, who do we pick, policy-wise, as the most "deserving" victims? It seem to me that the end-users "deserve" to die far more than those in the supply chain. It also seems more likely - although I could be wrong - that the end-users are far less likely to take others along with them.

Remember: "No one dies" is not an option. Minimizing the damage is the best we can do.

On the other hand, I'm a cold-hearted SOB who thinks that anyone who uses a hair dryer in a bathtub deserves to die without a warning label.

This also doesn't really have much to do with guns. The problem is a market with no government oversight or regulation (liberals should get that; they hate totally free markets). If we could magically remove all the guns, gang members (the supply chain) would continue to kill each other. Whether that would be car bombs or knives, I have no idea; people are very clever when it comes to killing each other.

Posted by: mrsizer | Dec 20, 2012 6:33:44 PM

"the legalization lobby is welcome to try again"

I live in Colorado, btw. We tried; we won.

Posted by: mrsizer | Dec 20, 2012 6:36:35 PM

I wonder if drunk drivers have killed more children since Sandy Hook than the man in Newtown?
Should we expect more or fewer deaths after legalizing drugs?

Your policy seems dangerous to me. And to the extent your data supports the view--it only highlights a single advantage without accounting for the consequences.


I'm not a professor/student, prosecutor, or defense-attorney. I'm just a schlepp sitting in the airport waiting to board my plane.

Posted by: Anonymous | Dec 20, 2012 6:51:32 PM

It's such a thorny issue... not sure what would work, but I am relatively sure of some things that won't work. A couple of comments that may be at least a little helpful:

The use of the term "assault rifle" in the Assault Weapon Ban was truly disingenuous. The first assault rifle was the German StG44. If a rifle shares its key characteristics, then it is properly an assault rifle: selective fire (machine gun vs normal semi-auto), mild cartridge, magazine (as opposed to belt) fed, and a single operator (vs. crew served). Under that definition the AR15 and the AK47s available in this country are NOT assault rifles. The military M16 and M4 and the AK47s used by military establishments ARE assault weapons. We were lied to when the law was passed. I'm shocked, shocked I tell you.

Much of the problem in this country is that most people learned everything they know about guns by watching TV and going to the movies. You may be shocked to learn that real life is not like TV. The real case is that the vast majority of firearms use is recreational and family oriented. At our range you'd see moms and dads with their older kids, relaxing, making little holes in pieces of paper and having a grand time. You'd see Cowboy Action Shooters holding a western costume party with firearms competition. Women in long pioneer dresses and men with handlebar mustaches shoot old fashioned firearms at various targets. And you might find a group of teenagers being taught gun safety.

Just for perspective, here's my best estimate of gun use over my lifetime:

Rounds expended just punching holes in paper and ringing gongs 100 yards away: 5,000
Rounds expended performing accuracy, pressure and velocity measurements: 300
Rounds expended getting rid of nuisance animals such as skunks and coyotes: 200
Rounds expended hunting for game animals to eat: 20
Rounds expended protecting myself or my family: 0
Rounds expended committing acts of aggression or coercion: 0
Instances of showing a firearm to threaten someone: 0
Instances of being shot at: 1, a very long time ago, with a air gun. They missed.

I was into shooting for quite a while before I ever thought about getting something designed for home or self defense. It's not really about exchanging shots with bad guys. It's mostly about wholesome recreation.

Posted by: denton | Dec 20, 2012 7:20:36 PM

I've answered my question:

In 2011, deaths from drunk driving fell to the lowest level since 1949. And Since 2005, the number of fatalities has declined by 26 percent:

So only 9,878 people were killed by drunk-drivers (including the driver, I presume) in 2011. That's 189 deaths a week.
23.7% of the US was under the age of 18 in 2010, but let's assume 25 percent of the drivers only kill themselves, and that there are 40 percent fewer kids on the road when the bars are open.

That means:

9,878 / 52 = 189
189 x 75% = 141
141 x 23.7% = 33.5
33.5 x 45% = 18.4

So No. Adam Lanza killed 2 more children than drunk drivers in the week since the shooting.


Posted by: Anonymous | Dec 20, 2012 7:24:33 PM

mrsizer __

I said: "the legalization lobby is welcome to try again."

You responded: "I live in Colorado, btw. We tried; we won."

To which I say: You live in the United States, btw. You've tried for 40 years; you lost."

If you want to test this, you can go up to a DEA agent while smoking a joint, punch him in the nose, and say, "I live in Colorado, btw. We tried; we won. Do something about it, you Nazi punk."

Then watch what happens.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 20, 2012 8:56:14 PM

"If you want to test this, you can go up to a DEA agent while smoking a joint, punch him in the nose, and say, "I live in Colorado, btw. We tried; we won. Do something about it, you Nazi punk."

Heh. I'm afraid you are hoist on your own petard there. Obama knows which way the, er, smoke is blowing, saying "It would not make sense for us to see a top priority as going after recreational users in states that have determined that it's legal..."

A year ago, you could have just written "go up to a DEA agent while smoking a joint" and just stop. Now you have to punch him in the nose and call him a Nazi.

FYI: Forensic pathologist. Also here via instapundit.

Posted by: billo | Dec 20, 2012 10:53:15 PM

Of course, this is a political non-starter, as both Democrats and Republicans are in favor of tough drug laws. Changing these laws would also have little effect on mass shootings like the one in Newtown, and mass shootings seem to be all the press and politicians care about. It is doubtful that there will be much headway in getting these laws changed given the current political environment, which is a pity.

Posted by: John Scotus | Dec 20, 2012 11:02:25 PM

billo --

Is declining to make pot cases a top priority the same as never, ever doing a pot case? You might want to ask the California "medical" marijuana dispensaries about that.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 20, 2012 11:26:04 PM

There are lots of good reasons for ending, or at least scaling back, the drug war. There is not a single good reason for continuing it. Not one. Oh, there are lots of reasons, it's just that none of them are good ones. They are either based on lies (see, ONDCP and Partnership for a Drug Free America), maintaining power and resources (see, DEA and drug kingpins), fear and ignorance (see, Congress, President Obama). Add into the mix the refusal by policy makers to compare the astronomical costs (billions of dollars, thousands of dead people, erosion of civil rights, militarization of local police forces, incarceration of harmless people, restriction on personal freedom) with the minimal benefits (a handful of law-abiding people don't get high), and you have today's war on drugs. Some day, Americans will look back on it the same way we look back on segregation, McCarthyism, company towns and, oh yeah, Prohibition.

On the topic of gun control, while I have little empathy for gun rights advocates, I have to agree that none of the types of gun control that are bandied about would stop much gun violence. The odds of any single person getting caught in a rampage like Newtown are virtually zero. I think efforts are better targeted toward technologies and laws that make it easier to trace guns and ammunition, so that when they are used in crimes, those crimes might be easier to solve. Training and education of people responsible for administering public spaces in responding to violence will help reduce damage from incidents like Newtown. But deranged, violent people have ways of getting their hands on destructive implements, from Timothy McVeigh to Adam Lanza to Ted Kaczynski (not sure if that's spelled right). The best we can do is try to recognize warning signs and learn from each incident to better prepare for the next one.

At least, that's my own personal take on it.

Posted by: C.E. | Dec 20, 2012 11:59:43 PM

I favor the ban of cigarettes and alcohol, with 50 lashes for the user, and the death penalty for the dealer. Or I favor the legalization of marijuana. One may not logically support the current situation. A mildly addictive substance that kills dozens, mostly in crashes, is illegal. Highly addictive substances that kill 500,000 by horrific ends, and cost $200 bil in health care, those are legal. Only in the Twilight Zone of the lawyer is this bizarro situation possible.

One has to look into the campaign funding of opponents of legalization, to see if any legitimate business or person making the large donation is under the control of the drug cartel. The illegality is a federal price support for the enemies of our nation, the Cartel, the Taliban.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Dec 21, 2012 6:59:52 AM

Half the murderers, half the murder victims, half the suicides, half the wife batterers, half the criminals are legally drunk. Cut those tragedies in half by banning alcohol, and the greatest tragedy follows, the loss of lawyer jobs. Thus the insanity of allowing alcohol, and banning marijuana. The latter is generally a crime suppressor. Smoking marijuana, one gets fat, lazy, and unable to leave the couch to steal a purse.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Dec 21, 2012 7:12:17 AM

"Is declining to make pot cases a top priority the same as never, ever doing a pot case??"

When the President says that he's directing the DoJ to not make it a priority, does that mean that they have decided to go after it? The bottom line is that the feds are pulling back. "Never ever" doing pot case? Of course not. But I bet almost. It's not a complete victory for the legalization folk, just a partial one. It's two steps forward.

You make the point of medical marijuana. The Obama Administration has explicitly stated that their policy is not to prosecute those following state marijuana laws (see, for instance http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/19/new-medical-marijuana-pol_n_325426.html). They have been going after folk they believe are using medical marijuana as a cover for things illegal by both state and federal law. It's another two steps forward.

And it will continue. You are right. There is not full legalization yet. However, the direction the country is going in is clear.

Posted by: billo | Dec 21, 2012 8:07:52 AM

billo --

"When the President says that he's directing the DoJ to not make it a priority, does that mean that they have decided to go after it?"

No, it doesn't, which is why you ought not to have implied the contrary earlier on this thread.

"The bottom line is that the feds are pulling back."

No they're not. The present policy under Obama is what it was when I was the Counselor to the Administrator of the DEA starting in 2003. The feds haven't focused on personal use amounts for years if not decades (if they ever did).

"It's not a complete victory for the legalization folk, just a partial one. It's two steps forward."

When you get to be losing by 48 to 2 instead of 50 to 0, I suppose you could call that a "partial victory." It reminds me of when Jimmy Carter called his grotesquely botched attempt to rescue the hostages "an incomplete success."

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 21, 2012 9:47:07 AM

Punching a DEA officer in the nose is a criminal offense whether you are smoking a joint while doing it or not. I don't recommend trying it either way.

Posted by: C60 | Dec 21, 2012 2:08:53 PM

I think Doug B. hit the nail on the head, repeatedly. Though he has not done so, I have some responses to Bill's reply.

"Execution data from 1900-1935 are from a different era, so much so that they might as well be from a different country. The far more relevant data are from the last generation, and those date support my conclusion. As executions resumed in significant numbers in the late 80's (and have continued), the murder rate has plummeted."

While there may be a correlation between executions and a reduced murder rate (and I'm not saying there is, but assuming that for the moment), that would be merely a correlation. It is not causation. IN fact, I think it would be extremely hard to tie the two. There are many other, better-documented reasons for reduction in the murder rate. To be able to make the claim that executions reduce murder in anything but a marginal way, you would need plenty more data. Additionally, there is so much contrary evidence from particular states and countries that have experienced even greater crime reductions without instating or re-instating DP. I think the obsession with the DP is quite strange indeed. As a crime-fighting tool, there is very little direct evidence of its efficacy save for a few cases. Far more important are smart policing, keeping the most violent offenders behind bars, and addressing the mental health issues that underlie a bit of criminality.

As a more sarcastic aside, I find it strange that Bill would be characterizing data from the early 1900s as insignificant because that was not just another era, but in essence another country. Conservatives are fond of the olden days, begging liberals to take heed to the important lessons and values of those times, while many liberals feel that those lessons have become outmoded. For instance, this was the case in a recent debate between AnonymousOne and Bill, in which AO made the point that while our forefathers supported DP and a retributive philosophy, they had no access to neuroscientific data questioning their widely-held beliefs and perhaps belying their moral nobility. If the 1900s were another country, the 17 and 1800s are another planet. What, then, is the relevance of these time periods that conservatives have idealized?

"3. As to whether the author is trying to exploit the Newtown massacre, all I can say is that, if he isn't, his timing is flat-out remarkable. He just HAPPENS to come out now saying that the way to reduce gun violence, which just HAPPENS to be on everyone's mind since Newtown, is to legalize drugs. My goodness."

Newsworthy issues often catalyze important and thoughtful policy discussions. Exploitation seems a charge lobbed at those that use a newsworthy issue to get people thinking about a policy one does not adhere to. After all, Bill, had a politician come out and said this event is why we need a death penalty, and gave a thoughtful reason, I would not accuse him of exploiting the tragedy.

Finally, you gave no shrift to Doug's legitimate question about prohibition. It is an important one. Alcohol is responsible for far more addiction, death, and destruction that so many other drugs. Anyone serious about prohibiting potentially harmful substances has to address alcohol--it is the elephant in the room. And I think it is going to be very hard to consistently seek to prohibit drugs and permit alcohol.


Posted by: Subethis | Dec 21, 2012 11:41:16 PM

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