With the horrific shooting that recently took place in Las Vegas, debates over gun control have been given center stage in our media and politics once again. And while every pundit seems to have their own surefire way of combatting gun violence, they all gloss over the elephant in the room. Which is, although mass shootings have taken on a repulsive aspect of popularity recently, the gun violence surrounding the War on Drugs has created more casualties than every mass shooting in the U.S. combined. And despite the fact these commentators tirelessly argue the merits and faults of one another’s ideas, one thing is certain; we can and should end the Drug War, immediately.
News outlets and politicians currently promulgating their agendas would like you to believe that every public venue in America carries an overt risk of involving you in the next mass shooting. The truth, however, is quite different. There has been an average of 32,000 gun fatalities in America each year from 2003-2010. Of those deaths, 60% were suicides and 3% were accidents, leaving approximately 11,000 homicides. Of which, more than 13% were gang-related, while victims of mass shootings made up only 1.5% of the remaining homicides – equating to .1% of all gun deaths and .3% of all homicides.
Now, if we are to believe the intentions of those pushing for an end to gun violence, it should be glaringly obvious that focusing on mass shootings, an issue responsible for one hundred times less deaths then gang-related homicides, is at the very least, quite an illogical way of achieving their goal. Luckily, the immediate and long-term effects from ending the War on Drugs will have a significant positive impact on gun fatalities across the board.
The most immediate of these resulting from the end of imprisoning people for victimless crimes, thereby drastically cutting the number of children growing up in single-parent households. Currently, 46% of our federal prison population is made up of non-violent drug offenders, while a massive 70% of gang members grow up in broken homes. Even if only 5% of those currently imprisoned for drug crimes return to have a positive impact on their family, that’s over 100,000 less recruits for gangs across the country. What the Drug War has done is create an endless cycle, whereby people are thrown in prison unnecessarily, oftentimes leaving children behind to grow up impoverished in single-parent households and far more susceptible to join gangs. Ultimately leading toward contributing to more gun violence, ending up in prison themselves, and perpetuating this generational cycle.
Not only will ending the Drug War break the cycle of poverty and subsequent gang recruitment, but it would also vastly cut into what has become the primary funding mechanism for most gangs: drug trafficking. Drug trafficking brings in as much as $750 billion in the US each year, with much of that money going towards gangs who have immersed themselves from start to finish in creating, smuggling, and selling throughout the country. If you purchase drugs in any major city in the U.S., chances are it’s passed through contact with a gang at some point. Combine this with the inability to resolve disputes through courts and other non-violent means, and it becomes obvious why gangs, gun violence and drug culture are so entwined.
However, if you’re still dead set on combatting mass shootings, ending the Drug War will have a positive impact there as well. Many of the recent mass shooters in America were prescribed psychotropic anti-depressants before going on their rampage, which have a well-documented history of causing hostility and homicidal ideation. As you know, opening the market up to previously outlawed alternatives give pharmaceutical companies the incentive to innovate medications with less volatile and potentially violent side effects used to treat mental disorders. Leading to an eventual cut in the number of dangerous, over-prescribed drugs currently used and the fatal effects that accompany them.
Unfortunately, without most Americans realizing the positive impact that ending the War on Drugs would have on gun violence, it’s unlikely we’ll see this gain traction in any meaningful way. Our politicians’ fetish for solutions that criminalize non-violent citizens guarantees that they will put forth a knowingly ineffective solution that exerts more government control long before they’ll consider anything potentially beneficial that scales it back. Choosing instead to prey on emotions by shifting the focus toward sensational stories, much like what we continue to see today.
Thomas J. Eckert
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