Want to Reduce Gun Violence? End the Drug War

While thinking we were in safe hands with Republicans on Gun Control(it turns out we might have been wrong on that), I’ve mostly been staying out of the same ol’ conversations that crop up every time there’s a mass shooting. Gun Control advocates have their prepared arguments. Gun Rights folks have theirs prepared as well. We argue for a week or so and then nothing really happens. Typically, that’s good enough for me.

After this tragedy, I’ve heard some interesting news though. High School students around the country are planning a walkout on 4/20 to push for more gun control. This is the easy answer, but there is an even better policy that would decrease the amount of death due to firearms that such an event detracts from. 4/20 is known as a day where anti-drug war activists plan events and try to get their message out. Ending the drug war will do much more to end gun related deaths than the gun control being called for.

Opioid Epidimic

Opioid deaths have grown at a staggering rate and are expected to top 50,000 in 2017. In states where cannabis has been legalized, the opioid epidimic has been reversed with those states seeing a 6% reduction in opioid deaths over 2014-2016. That’s 6,000 people saved over two years.

Firearm-related Deaths

In the most recent cause of death report from the CDC it was reported that there were 36,252 deaths due to injury by firearms in 2015.

Of that number, 60.7%(22,005) were suicides. Cannabis is used to treat anxiety, PTSD(studies show that around 7,400 veterans commit suicide every year due to PTSD), and depression. While it’s important to note that treating these conditions with cannabis won’t help everyone, ending prohibition will open up a new avenue for treatment of some of the causes of suicides, saving thousands of lives.

Another 35.8%(12,978) were homicides. About 25%(3,244) of those were drug related. Now, that percentage is a little weird, and it has been reported between 5% and 50% depending on the source and how it’s counted. They could come from people on drugs, gang wars over turf, addicts killing to get a fix, and gangs who make their money on the black market trade of drugs. By ending the war on drugs, we could reduce many of those categorizations to zero, saving thousands of lives.

According to gunviolencearchive.org, a site that defines mass shootings very generously as, “4 or more shot or killed, not including the shooter,” there were 346 people murdered in mass shootings in 2017. That number includes all school shootings and more.

Impacts of the Drug War Internationally

We aren’t able to reliably get data from other countries in drug related homicides. It remains a hard stat to ascertain given spotty reporting and unsolved cases. We do know that our drug war at home causes a massive amount of violence internationally. The US has bullied Central and South American countries into enforcing drug laws on the supply side to make sure less drugs end up here. While it’s hard to see if such policies have worked in reducing the supply of drugs available in the US, it’s easy to see the effects of such policies

A Choice

Don’t get me wrong, 346 is 346 too many. But we are now being asked to choose between two issues, using force on peaceful, law abiding citizens due to the actions of a few, or working to end the drug war. The media will likely cover the student walkout, and will likely continue to ignore the anti-drug war activists, but that’s wrong. As I’ve shown above, ending prohibition has the potential to save tens of thousands of lives PER YEAR, and we’re being asked to ignore that.

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