Fellow Conservatives: Our Position Is Hypocritical

  Fellow Conservatives: Our Position Is Hypocritical

Posted by FoM on April 21, 2001 at 21:43:36 PT
By Evan Gahr 
Source: Washington Post 

Georgia Republican Bob Barr refuses to concede any ground in our nation's war on drugs. In 1999, Rep. Barr tried to block implementation of a District of Columbia referendum to allow the seriously ill to use marijuana for medicinal purposes. In retaliation, Barr's office was besieged by angry protesters, including a multiple sclerosis sufferer who said she relieved her pain by adding marijuana to her salad. Barr saw this as one more salvo in a campaign to "make dangerous, mind-altering drugs legally available."
But Barr doesn't tackle all wars with the same determination. Like many other Republicans, Barr is committed to maintaining Americans' easy access to guns. In the wake of the Columbine massacre two years ago, he helped fellow Republicans thwart efforts by congressional Democrats to raise the legal purchase age for guns from 18 to 21. He opposed requiring trigger locks, and, more recently, he railed against requiring a three-day waiting period for weapons purchased at gun shows. Far from regarding Barr as the extremist that many in Washington dub him, I sympathize with his views and admire his strong stance on drugs. But recently I have come to see him as typifying a dangerous kind of GOP hypocrisy. As a fellow conservative, I find myself asking: Why is the drug war worth fighting at an estimated $60 billion annually, while far more modest measures to keep weapons from criminals and emotionally volatile teenagers are doomed to failure? When I tried to find out from Barr, his office did not respond, leaving me with a basic philosophical problem: Conservatives seem prepared to play John Stuart Mill on guns one minute and William Bennett on drugs the next.It was New York Post columnist Andrea Peyser who first brought this contradiction to my attention last month after 15-year-old student Charles Andrew Williams, armed with his father's .22 caliber revolver and some 40 rounds of ammunition, allegedly killed two students and wounded 13 others at his California high school. Who was the last teenager to massacre his classmates with a bong, I wondered? Don't misunderstand me: Drug use is bad. But can anyone seriously dispute that guns are a far more immediate and dangerous threat?The conservatives to whom I turned to explain this contradiction have refused to consider any additional gun control measures whatsoever. Let's take a closer look at their arguments:• Gun control laws are worthless. Several prominent conservatives -- including veteran cultural warrior Phyllis Schlafly, whose stance on many issues I admire -- noted that we already have 20,000 gun laws on the books. If these laws haven't prevented school shootings, this line of reasoning goes, new measures are simply doomed to failure. Besides, Schlafly writes, "the sheer number of guns and gun owners in America makes gun control far more unrealistic than Prohibition. At least 80 million Americans own about 250 million guns."However, the fact that drug use is so prevalent (37 percent of high school seniors last year told University of Michigan researchers that they had smoked pot within the previous 12 months; 8.2 percent had used the stimulant Ecstasy) does nothing to slow the drug war. Indeed, Attorney General John Ashcroft finds widespread use an argument for greater enforcement. Days after taking office, he vowed on "Larry King Live" to "escalate the war on drugs . . . relaunch it if you will." But he said, "I think we've got enough laws on the books [for guns]."• Laws do more harm than good. The conservativeline is that gun laws are counterproductive. That's right: Guns don't kill people, gun laws do. To prove their point, Schlafly and others fall back on studies done by Yale University scholar John Lott, who claims that in 15 states -- including California -- -tighter gun laws coincided with an increase in crime. And if laws don't work, this line of reasoning goes, let's abandon the fight. Gee, where have I heard this argument before? Ah, yes, from folks determined to abandon the War on Drugs. (You know them, the libertarian crowd whom social conservatives regard as foolish naysayers.) Just last month, the Center for National Policy released a new study, "The War on Drugs: Do the American People Have Battle Fatigue?"• The family is at fault. Thomas Roeser, a radio talk-show host in Chicago, voiced a classic conservative rationale when he said that "the shootings on the campuses are a result of wide-scale disorientation on the part of families . . . . You can talk all you want about curtailing guns, but that's silly. It's as silly as curtailing knives or any other instrument that can [wound]." Barrechoed this sort of thinking when he said that future "tragedies" could more easily be avoided if all schools prominently displayed the Ten Commandments. But if the sorry state of family life renders concerns about access to guns irrelevant, what about drugs? Why aren't conservatives prepared to throw in the towel in the war on drugs until the two-parent family again becomes our country's norm?• We need to understand the root causes. Thomas Jipping, director of the Free Congress Foundation's Center for Law and Democracy, is among those who argue that it is time to find out what is behind the dramatic acts of gun violence. "We've got to look at why some young people look at a handgun and yawn. And others look at a handgun and want to pick it up and shoot somebody."Wait. Don't conservatives generally sneer at calls to place criminals under a sociological microscope? It's usually liberals who want to examine criminal behavior this way. Remember how Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) blamed poverty and racism for the 1992 Los Angeles riots? Now, though, every school shooting spawns root-cause conservatives. And if we are going to examine those root causes, what about the root causes of drug use?The nation suffers innumerable consequences from easy access to guns and drugs. Both liberals and conservatives would do well to argue their respective cases strictly on the legal issues (the Second Amendment for guns, right to privacy for drugs). But let's dispense with selective fatalism.Hey, Bob Barr and friends: How about one standard for both plagues? Or do you want to play enabler for the next Charles Andrew Williams?Evan Gahr is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. Boston Phoenix political writer Seth Gitell did some reporting for this piece.Source: Washington Post (DC) Author: Evan Gahr, Hudson InstitutePublished: Sunday, April 22, 2001Copyright: 2001 The Washington Post Company Contact: letterstoed washpost.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:Hudson Institute How Real Is Traffic? Preaches to Choir on Drug Reform of New Mexico Urges End To War on Drugs

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Comment #7 posted by MDG on April 25, 2001 at 10:09:36 PT:

I have to disagree about the guns killing people.
I have to say I don't like guns. But, I respect the wishes of people wanting to have them for protection, collection, or even "plinking cans" off a fence (not to mention that bit about the Second Amendment!). I believe it is true that people kill people, not guns. A gun is merely a tool, and the problem with use is with the user. The overwhelming majority of gun owners don't use them to commit crimes or harm others. Yet, those are the stories we'll hear on the news; ones about armed robbery, etc. Would a mugging be any better if the assailant used a knife or sword like in Indiana Jones? I don't think so.The issue is about Constitutionality and responsibility. A person who likes to have guns for whatever legal reason should not be penalized because some others refuse to respect the life and liberty of innocent people.If a person wants to kill someone else, they're going to do it somehow. It doesn't matter that guns exist. The argument which says "If people weren't allowed to have guns, people wouldn't be killed by guns" is strikingly similar to the one that says "If people weren't allowed to have drugs, people wouldn't be killed by drugs", and we know how wrong that statement is, for many reasons.I think issues like drugs/guns are much larger than "They kill people, therefore they should not be possessed". Some might disagree, however.Mike...
Some commercials regarding gun ownership, etc.
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Comment #6 posted by Robbie on April 22, 2001 at 11:33:28 PT

almost forgot
re: this morning's "Meet the Press"JOHNSON 1, McCAFFERY 0Good job Gary!! Keep it up!
Smoke onein memory of the Christian missionary felled by our War on (some) Drugs
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Comment #5 posted by Robbie on April 22, 2001 at 11:28:18 PT

Guns and Drugs
I find it amazing to see any sort of dissension among Republican ranks. One of my harshest criticisms of Republicans (and I can criticize since most of my family suffers from the disease) is that no matter what happens, they all stick to the party line come hell or high water. Even Ms. Arianna Huffington, a so-called "recovering Republican," used to spew the party line like a good little parrot. So to see someone of the Republican ilk dissenting is a major blow to the drug war. Maybe Traffic truly did have an effect on some of the more intransigent amongst Prohibitionists.This may not be a popular opinion around here but as far as I'm concerned, people don't kill people as much as guns kill people. I harken back to the scene in "Raiders Of The Lost Ark" where Indy is confronted by a masked man brandishing a sword. From thirty feet away the masked man posed little threat to Indy. From thirty feet away Indy killed the masked man with his gun. A lead pellet hurled at incredible speeds will do more damage to flesh than a disgruntled teenager with a knife. Yes he can make a bomb, but is that relevant? The easy access to the gun is more immediate. Gun advocates would do well to push for strict regulations on guns. Those who use guns responsibly (like drugs) are not those people I'm against, but those same advocates like to rail against any kind of regulation. Guns are fine for those who aren't hurt by them. Still in all, I say melt the damn things down and make them into lamp-posts. But, of course, that is just my own humble (not so modest) opinion. :-)
Don't bring any metal, just the weed from the ground
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Comment #4 posted by observer on April 22, 2001 at 08:18:09 PT

Our Traditional Right
 Conservatives seem prepared to play John Stuart Mill on guns one minute and William Bennett on drugs the next. THE RIGHT TO DRUGS AS A RIGHT TO PROPERTYObviously, viewing the right to drugs as a species of property right presupposes a capitalist conception of the relationship between the individual and the state, incompatible with a socialist conception of that relationship. We are familiar with the fact that capitalism is premised on the right to property. As for socialism, Webster's defines it as "a system or condition of society or group living in which there is no private property."22 Q.E.D.: Drug censorship, like book censorship, is an attack on capitalism and freedom. Psychiatrists either ignore this cardinal connection between the chemicals we call "drugs" and politics, preferring to treat drug use as if it were purely an issue of mental health or psychopathology, or -- if they recognize it -- treat the relationship with their customary hostility to liberty and property.. . . In 1922, Ludwig von Mises -- the most unappreciated genius of our century -published a book entitled Socialism, establishing his reputation, at least among the cognoscenti. His closing sentences in that work read thus: "Whether Society is good or bad may be a matter of individual judgment; but whoever prefers life to death, happiness to suffering, well-being to misery, must accept. . . without limitation or reserve, private ownership of the means of production."23Liberty as ChoicePrivate property is indispensable as an economic base and precondition for forming a government fit for freedom. I use this unfamiliar expression to emphasize that no government is, or can be, committed to freedom. Only people can be. Government, by its very nature, has a vested interest in enlarging its freedom of action, thereby necessarily reducing the freedom of individuals. At the same time, the right to private property -- as a political-economic concept -- is not a sufficient foundation for a government serving the needs and meriting the loyalty of free and responsible persons. It may be worth remembering here that Adam Smith, generally regarded as the father of free-market capitalism, was not an economist (there was no such thing in the eighteenth century). He was a professor of moral philosophy. As such, his brand of economics made no attempt to be value-free. Today, professional economists and observers of the economic scene err in their efforts to make the study of these human affairs into a value-free social "science."What, then, is the moral merit of the free market? What is good about it, besides its being an efficient mechanism for producing and delivering goods and services? The answer is that the free market is good because it encourages social cooperation (production and trade) and discourages force and fraud (exploitation of the many by a few with the power to coerce), and because it is a legal-moral order that places the value of the person as an individual above that of his value as a member of the community. It is implicit in the idea of the free market that persons who want to enjoy its benefits must assume responsibility, and be held responsible, for their actions; that they look to the principle of caveat emptor -not the paternalistic state -- for protection from the risks inherent in the exercise of freedom; and that among the risks with which they must live are those associated with drugs and medical treatments. In short, the fundamental precepts of moral philosophy and political economics cannot be separated: They are symbiotic, the one dependent on the other. "It is.. . illegitimate," Mises warned, "to regard the 'economic' as a definite sphere of human action which can be sharply delimited from other spheres of action... . The economic principle applies to all human action."26If we are willing to use our political-economic vocabulary precisely and take its terms seriously, we must conclude that just as the Constitution guarantees us the right to worship whatever gods we choose and read whatever books we choose, so it also guarantees us the right to use whatever drugs we choose. Mises's observation about the characteristic conflict of the twentieth century -- which, with welfare-statism in mind, he offered at its beginning -remains true toward its end and applies with special force to the drug problem: In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries religion was the main issue in European political controversies. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in Europe as well as in America the paramount question was representative government versus royal absolutism. Today it is the market economy versus socialism.27 Mises never ceased emphasizing that our bloody century is characterized by a struggle between two diametrically opposite types of economic systems: command economies controlled by the state, exemplified by socialism (communism), versus free-market economies regulated by the supply and demand of individual producers and consumers, exemplified by capitalism (classical liberalism). States based on command economies are inherently despotic -- a few superiors issuing orders, and many subordinates obeying them. States based on market economies are inherently democratic -individuals deciding what to produce, sell, and buy and at what prices, producers and consumers alike being free to engage or refrain from engaging in market transactions.Thomas Szasz, Our Right To Drugs, 1992, pp.13-15 
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Comment #3 posted by drfist on April 22, 2001 at 07:25:54 PT

religious Issue really!
Guns fit the conservative religious agenda, "the bible and the bullet" guns kill infadels, good!!!Drugs like marijuana are used by infadels and "colored people" Marijuana is the "devils Sacrement" We must face the issue as being "promotion of a religious belief by the religious right, not a health or safety issue a holy war or Jihad. Therefore we must express our right to freedom of religion and reject this based on the reality of the real cause of the war on drugs is the same as the witch hunts and the Spanish Inquisition. 
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Comment #2 posted by sm247 on April 22, 2001 at 06:46:52 PT

Barr saw this as one more salvo in a   campaign to "make dangerous, mind-altering drugs legally available." Man 0' man what have they been smokin...... "make dangerous, mind-altering drugs legally available." Dangerous ???? Mind altering ...hey uh we are talkin bout marijuana here....maybe you might get these effects smokin banana peels.I know this ain't the na messageboard but Barr's stand on the gun issue is commendableGuns don't kill people people kill people.
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Comment #1 posted by Ed Carpenter on April 22, 2001 at 05:34:11 PT:

Fellow Conservatives: Our Position Is Hypocritical
Evan Gahr commends Georgia Congressman Bob Barr for refusing to concede any ground in our nation's unconstitutional war on drugs, while criticizing him for his views on gun control.Methinks Evan Gahr is as confused as Bob Barr, but at least Barr knows what side his bread is buttered on.The pharmaceutical companies spent $15 million in the last election cycle to make it profitable for representatives such as Bob Barr to crank up the war against illegal drugs.And crank it up they did. The land of the free now locks away more of its own citizens than any country on the face of the earth--all in the name of guaranteeing profits.The "war" against cocaine alone costs us $billions even though legal Tylenol kills more people than cocaine ever thought of. Aspirin and related drugs kill more people than all of the illegal drugs combined, and yet the war persists.Evan Gahr brings up, as justification for trashing my 2nd Amendment rights, Columbine and the more recent tragedy in California, where 2 students were killed and 13 injured by a 15-year-old student using his father's gun."Who was the last teenager to massacre his classmates with a bong," wondered Evan Gahr. "Drug use is bad..." said Gahr "But can anyone seriously dispute that guns are a far more immediate and dangerous threat?"Yes, Evan Gahr, I can. I say that the drug war, the drug companies, and the best politicians that money can buy are all a far more immediate and dangerous threat.Why not mention the number of students who are fed mind altering legal drugs like Ritalin and Prozac? Are the legal drugs a common element in any of the shootings, or is this information witheld at the request of the lawyers? As for guns, it was far easier to get a gun legally when I was a kid, but the Constitution was treated with a lot more respect then also. End this ridiculous drug war and restore the Constitution as the supreme law of the land.
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