The Misadventures of Quinxy truths, lies, and everything in between!


The Waxing and Waning Legality of Alcohol, Drugs, & Guns

A friend of mine is pro-drugs and anti-guns.  She wants to legalize the former and crimminalize the latter.
Her position doesn't seem logically consistent to me and I hit upon an argument which I felt proves the point.  Here is that argument...
I was doing a bit of research to see if the argument I mentioned in the car yesterday might have any actual statistical merit to back it up.  I realized it's of course not really about drugs or guns, per se, but the broader question about how we make decisions based on the risk versus the reward of various activities with a mortality component.
Alcohol is legal and other drugs (marijuana) are moving towards legalization.  Combined they are estimated to kill about 100,000 people per year (80k from alcohol, 20k from drugs).  The deaths are from car accidents, other sorts of accidents, overdoses, organ failure, etc.  This does not include the vastly higher numbers of mental/emotional suffering personal or familial that their use creates, nor the huge physical or medical injuries/conditions that do not result in death.
Cigarettes are legal.  They are estimated to kill 400,000 people per year.  The nature of those deaths is a little different, admittedly, since cigarettes are more likely to kill older people than alcohol, drugs, or guns.  Children are, however, also allegedly negatively affected in terms of cancer rates, and issues such as asthma.
Guns are legal, but increasingly restricted.  They kill about 18,000 people a year.  For simplicity I'm not considering injuries, though I'd argue there's no need to consider them here, since the emotional and physical results from alcohol/drugs are much more larger. 
As someone who has never been drunk or high, I cannot imagine how the pleasure associated with alcohol or drugs warrants 100,000 deaths a year, not to mention the millions who suffer serious negative emotional effects directly and indirectly related to alcohol/drugs.
As someone who has shot a gun on a handful of occasions and enjoyed shooting guns (at targets, not animals) I can understand the pleasure associated with that activity.  And as someone who has been robbed and been threatened (with the police unable or unwilling to meaningfully assist), I can understand the desire and/or need for someone to want to protect themselves or their family.
So, I do not see why one choice of pleasure with a vastly worse mortality record should be increasingly legally protected while another far less dangerous activity should be increasingly restricted.  That does not seem consistent or reasonable.
And in fact alcohol/drug use and abuse are the root cause of the majority of the deaths/injuries from guns.  If alcohol and drugs were to magically vanish from the earth, the number of deaths from guns would plummet.  Most murders (and many suicides) directly or indirectly involve the influence of alchol/drugs (and in the case of murder, the sale of or attempt to secure drugs).
One final more profound but weaker argument I'd make...  Alcohol and drugs have no necessitated "value" for society.  One can achieve significantly similar states of altered consciousness without their use, through meditation, lucid dreaming, sleep deprivation, sweat lodges, etc. and those experiences come at very, very low risk (while also bringing spiritual/mental benefit).  People may choose alcohol/drugs because that is an easier route to altered consciousness, but that doesn't make it the right means to achieve that societal benefit.  Guns, on the other hand, do provide an arguable inherent value for society.  Used by responsible individuals in specific circumstances, they are the only means to effectively defend yourself and your family (the cops are useless to protect you in a home invasion, useless to prevent a rape, useless to prevent a mugging).  And used by a responsible society guns are the only means it has to ultimately defend itself against its government.  Jefferson said quite reasonably, "The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government." and "When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty."
It seems inconsistent to gleefully want the legalization of alcohol/drugs while raging against the continued legalization of guns.
My own position is mostly a personal one.  I don't get drunk, I don't get high, and I have no guns.  But I'm not necessarily opposed, I may do any and/or all of those in the future.  If I were made god for a day I would rid the world of alcohol, drugs, and guns.  I think they are all dangerous distractions and poor ways to get by in the world.  But I recognize I am not god, and that no one can make those things happen.  So instead I reluctantly acknowledge that we're stuck with both realities and the benefits and problems they each bring.  I hope therefore that we can maximize the benefits of each while minimizing the negatives of each. 
Some links with some of the stats:
A note on how I calculated the 18,000 figure.  The number of gun related deaths is 30,000 people per year.  But let's break down that 30k number, since that's really not a fair number, since a good percentage of those deaths would have taken place anyway, with the use of another weapon.  Of that number, 56% are suicides, 40% are homicides, 4% are accidental (with 2% being truly unintentional).  Even in industrialized, modern countries where guns are banned there will be murders and suicides, so we can't fairly include those just because a gun is used.  The US murder rate is 3x the UK rate, the US suicide rate is roughly 2x.  Half of all suicides in the US use a firearm.  If we adjust the numbers to eliminate those people who would have used another weapon then the numbers might approximate: 8,000 murders (instead of 12k), 8,500 suicides (instead of 17k), 1,200 accidental deaths by firearm (same) for a new total of about 18,000 deaths per year which could arguably be said to be a mostly direct result of the existence of guns.  So, really we're talking about 18k deaths, not 30k deaths.  I suspect a fairer exploration of these numbers would further reduce this 18k quite a bit, when other elements of US culture versus UK society are considered. 


So that was my attempt to convince her...  either to be less in favor of banning guns, or less in favor of drug legalization/used, doesn't matter to me.  I'm sure my argument won't work, but it was a nice try.


Comments (1) Trackbacks (0)
  1. … guns , alcohol, drugs, cigarettes… all these are liberties for the individual, but a burden for society. It’s nice to choose for yourself to use them or not, but you wouldn’t want a drunk neighbor high on crack, with a cigarette in the corner of his mouth and a gun in his pants wandering through your town. They are all equally useless, but the right to do useless things is means liberty. If you can’t hurt yourself and the others around you, means you are a true slave to the system.

Leave a comment

No trackbacks yet.