Trayvon Martin, Drug Policy, Civil Liberties, Gun Rights: The Common Thread

Gun rights activists, anti-drug police zealots, community watch patrols, civil libertarians, drug gangsters and marijuana legalizers don't usually talk much to each other, much less connect the dots between their pet causes and net effects in a multidimensional, cohesive, thoughtful and analytic way. The knee-jerk perceptions of these different advocacy issues too often begin and end with the assumption that they arise primarily from the conservative right or liberal left. Therein lays the basis for the distrust and polarization that blinds us to the inter-connectivity between actions and reactions with oblivious disregard to the tragic if unintended consequences of our efforts.

In truth, we all have far more in common than is generally acknowledged.

Who wants violent criminals roaming our neighborhoods? Who wants to squander trillions on a defunct criminal justice system with zero chance of success? Who wants to deplete scarce resources at an enormous risk to our precious liberty and freedoms we proudly proclaim to be protecting in the first place? The more we dig, the deeper we sink, completely oblivious to the first law of political action: "When you're in a hole -- STOP DIGGING!"

Millions of Americans engage in pursuits, many of which government bureaucrats reflexively disapprove. In the case of marijuana, every user is, by definition, a criminal by Federal and most State standards. The issue is not an offensive criminal act that threatens public safety, but rather one grounded in the expenditure of government personnel and tax dollars intervening with an individual's freedom to control what he or she puts into his or her own body. We've created a crime, identical to possessing a pint of beer during the era of prohibition or possessing an unlicensed .22 rifle in New York City, locked away in the closet gathering dust.

Community Watch Programs, ideally, are citizen efforts to bolster the eyes of the local police. Community Watch advocates, including gun owners (and, yes, even concealed carry licensees) and non-gun owners alike, see the utter inability of law enforcement to protect them when threatened by the very criminal activity we thoughtlessly helped spawn. Where life-threatening activity is involved, real people know that when mere seconds count, the police are just minutes away.

Debating the presumptive distinctions between a "stand your ground" jurisdiction and a "retreat-rule" jurisdiction is a largely futile argument over nuanced differences that law professors relish, but whose fine points rarely matter in a life-or-death situation out in the street. Such displays of rhetorical swordsmanship miss the important significance of the cause and effect relationship entirely.

With regard to tragic consequences in the Trayvon Martin incident, the question that should be raised is: "Why are people frightened of a black teenager wearing a 'hoodie' in the first place?" Is it because of our drug/gang culture or too much television? Our sense of lost safety and general community security that existed in our country until we began this, ineffective, counter-productive war on drugs rages on like a cyclic perpetual motion machine that we can't find the stop button for. The more arrests police make, the more prosecutions are pursued, the more convictions (or pleas) made require more jails, more resources and feed the powerful police/prison industrial complex demanding more and more of our money to maintain this profitable enterprise for their benefit -- not ours!

An equally unfortunate and unforeseen consequence of the government's effort to wage war over the market in illegal drugs is the catalytic effect of causing the violent activity associated with drugs. For the skeptics among us, I simply reference history and our ignominious war on alcohol that gave rise to organized gangsters and to what end? The consequences of enforcement were far worse and more dangerous that the perceived problem in the first place.

In our zeal to put violent criminals out of business we've corrupted our law enforcement community with lure of asset forfeitures, giving rise to financial incentives to bust people after they sell the drugs so they can seize cash and property. Before asset forfeiture laws, standard procedure had been to simply destroy the drugs! This is perverted capitalism in an Orwellian form. Our founding fathers would collectively vomit if they saw what we've created in the very name of protecting our sacred individual civil liberty, freedom and personal actions.

This vicious vortex of crime and violence in the abominable war on drugs, devours more than several billion dollars a year, kills tens of thousands of people, contributes significantly to the number of illegal guns in this country, richly benefits both the drug cartels and domestic gangs and does nothing to decrease drug use -- indeed it rather glamorizes it!

Gun rights activists and marijuana activists are both concerned with civil liberties. Their concern is precisely where the right and left meet: at the radical center. Liberals, moderates and conservatives want the government to back off encroaching on our personal freedom, balance the budget, cut back on our unsustainable world military presence, and re-read the Constitution, especially the part about "limited powers" and those reserved to the states and the people. To borrow from the comic character Pogo: "They would be us!"

In terms of wasted resources and effort, the war on drugs is largely a war on marijuana. But the connection goes even deeper: The violence associated with the black markets created by prohibition of marijuana provides political cover and motivation in the name of "law and order" to those who would permanently curtail the public's 2nd Amendment rights.

Gun owners should understand that much of the impetus to over-regulate and ban firearms would evaporate overnight -- along with much violent crime -- if they would effectively join forces with the anti-prohibition activists to eliminate the lucrative black market for both drugs and guns by legalizing marijuana.

"Combating crime" is a political cliche pandering politicians have invoked to control both guns and drugs for decades. But blaming either guns or drugs for violence is an intellectual cop-out. Neither causes violence. Competition for control of lucrative illegal markets for banned drugs makes violence an inevitable means to settle arguments, because neither the courts nor the police enforce business transactions between gangsters.

The unending drug violence fuels misguided outcries to add more gun prohibitions on top of past and present prohibitions. This secondary prohibition only creates another black market in guns, one that is exploited by the criminals themselves and leads to additional crime, e.g., burglaries in search of firearms to the tune of 500,000 gun thefts a year.

It is time for marijuana prohibition to be on the front burner of national discussion and public debate. Consider: over the last four decades we have squandered more than a trillion dollars waging this unwinnable war. We have shelled out $450 billion in federal corrections dollars and $190 billion to police our porous borders, arrest 37 million non-violent drug offenders in our country and pay the costs of policing other countries.

In an economy where failing corporations have to be bailed out by the government, is it not time to end the madness, stop wasting the billions, and begin to create drug policies based on science, personal liberty, and learned lessons? We at the Independent Firearms Owners Association (IFoA) are prepared to admit the unpleasant truths, discuss the uncomfortable dilemmas and help formulate a workable consensus to these interrelated issues.

Inevitably, just as drug and gun crime are intertwined, so are the government's efforts to repress both. Guns are here to stay and so are drugs. Let's learn to live more safely with both rather than challenge their existence in unproductive political screaming matches that serve the interests of the naysayers, the doomsayers but not you and not me.

The more of our dwindling resources we spend on attempting to prevent drugs (mainly marijuana) from coming into the country, the more the price goes up, the greater the profits for criminals--and the higher the pressure to eviscerate more of our civil liberties while pouring even more money into what we should now recognize to be a bottomless pit.

Few politicians have the guts to propose a dramatic about face in long held paradigms, let alone lead that fight. What a powerful alliance the merging of these two movements could become! It's time to stop protesting our culture, our institutions and our history and start changing it.

Our nation teeters on the verge of bankruptcy. Maybe we should stop digging our financial grave any deeper and learn from our own sad history: end marijuana prohibition and stop wasting billions of dollars every year arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating our children, our neighbors and our fellow citizens?

Let's stop funding drug gangs, drug cartels, fueling racism and fear of crime, corrupting our law enforcement agencies and military on both sides of our southern border and direct those resources to investing in our nation through education, infrastructure and debt reduction.

Politicians hate to admit they're wrong, especially given their "funding for 40 years" of the drug war. Our survival as a free nation demands that they summon their inner courage and "just say no". As Kenny Rogers would say, "Ya gotta know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em." The IFoA is ready to lead, we're ready to follow, but we will not get out of anyone's way. I guess you could say we're determined to Stand Our Ground -- our common ground.