Need a Reminder? Prohibition Doesn’t Work!

Eric is my niece Sonnet's main squeeze. He's a sweet-natured young man who proudly states that he owns 11 guns. I took this alarming admission in stride, because Eric is a military veteran and a skilled hunter, well versed in firearms safety. He's not dangerous.

However, in justifying his private arsenal, Eric casually articulated a dogma that's been perpetuated by the National Rifle Association and its allies on Fox News — that the Federal government is dead-set on carrying out (sometime — who knows when?) a secret, lightning program of universal gun confiscation. When it comes, he apparently plans to either hide his ordinance or start shootin'.

This anxiety is consistent with the limited-government conservatism (LGC) of its proponents. But it betrays an underlying — and fairly crazy — contradiction. After all, a bedrock conviction of the LGC community is that the government can't find its own ass with 1,000 hands. As the government grows, it becomes less efficient, less competent to carry out its stated policies and functions.

Here's the cognitive dissonance: On one hand, as big government gets bigger, it becomes more and more inept. On the other hand, this bloated ectoplasm of bungling bureaucrats possesses the surgical dexterity to somehow ferret out, swiftly seize (without resistance), and magically vanish 200 million private firearms from 315 million people in a nation covering 3,790,000 square miles.

The absurdity of this concept is all the more dazzling in light of the fact that no legislator in history has ever formally proposed either the seizure of anybody's guns or the repeal of the Second Amendment. No one. Ever.

Nonetheless, the NRA annually raises and spends millions of dollars based almost solely on this exquisitely cultivated myth of prohibition. The delusion persists despite the reality that no American — and hardly anyone, anywhere — has ever seen prohibition work, except in tiny, isolated communities.

Indeed, prohibition of some things — like murder and rape — is a great idea. But, although we execute some murderers and rapists, others keep murdering and raping, sometimes just to prove that “nobody's gonna tell me what I can't do!”

Of course, the great American example of prohibition was the Volstead Act, the banning of all alcoholic beverages between 1919 and 1933. As we know now, the passage of the 21st Amendment, ending Prohibition, concluded one of the booziest, most lawless 15 years in US history. It seemed that the more people were told not to have a little drink, the bigger grew their thirst.

Also, there's smoking. We've never tried an outright ban on smoking everywhere, but we've done all we can to prove that smoking is deadly to the smoker and dangerous to everyone else. But 20 percent of Americans still smoke, and always will. Every year, millions of young people — who refuse to be told what they can and cannot do to their own bodies — start smoking. So there!

America's 30-year War on Drugs has expanded exponentially the value of illicit narcotics, created fortunes for drug lords, turned dopers into criminals, and spread the plague of addiction into vast new territories. It's the Volstead Act on steroids. Today, there are millions of ruined people injecting poison into their veins solely because the government has told them they're not allowed to inject poison into their veins. So there!

Prohibition can't even get rid of measles and chicken pox. We thought we had it wiped out until a fresh bunch of zealots, even more ignorant and paranoid than the NRA, decided that vaccinations cause autism.

The prospect of official prohibition doesn't have to be true, or even credible. Even if it's just a political ploy, it triggers a primal fear. People resist compulsion, instinctively. I know I do. But sometimes, this resistance is a denial of reason that boils down to sheer bullheadedness. And sometimes, as we seek to prevent some great tragedy that's never going to happen, we invite a real tragedy even worse than our deepest fears.

Cf., Sandy Hook Elementary School.

29 comments on “Need a Reminder? Prohibition Doesn’t Work!

  1. R.J.Matthews
    January 3, 2013

    Each year, on average, 100,000 Americans are shot with a gun. Of these, over 31,000 are fatalities, 11,000 of them murders and 18,000 suicides. More than a million people have been killed with guns in America since 1968

    40 per cent of all gun sales in America currently have no background checks whatsoever

    Japan, which has the toughest gun control in the world, had just TWO in 2006 and averages fewer than 20 a year. In Australia, they've not had a mass shooting since stringent new laws were brought in after 35 people were murdered in the country's worst-ever mass shooting in Tasmania in 1996.

    Firearm deaths are significantly lower in states with stricter gun control legislation. Though the sample sizes are small, we find substantial negative correlations between firearm deaths and states that ban assault weapons (-.45), require trigger locks (-.42), and mandate safe storage requirements for guns (-.48).”

    The majority of weapons seized at crime scenes in Mexico have been traced back to the United States, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

    The El Paso Times, which obtained the figures, reports that from 2007 to 2011, 68,161 firearms out of 99,691 found at crime scenes over the border – about 68 percent – originated from U.S. gun manufacturers or dealers.

    Drug cartels in Mexico control approximately 70% of the foreign narcotics that flow into the United States.

    The vast majority of the handguns and many of the assault rifles used by the cartels enter Mexico from the United States.

    research has asserted that most weapons and arms trafficked into Mexico are from gun dealers in the United States.


  2. rohscompliant
    January 4, 2013

    While I have my own passionite views on this subject……is this really the site we should be discussing this topic on?

    Can we keep it industry related……..and banter on this subject on other sites?

    I mean I would love to talk about off roading but their are other sites for that.

    No disrespect intended.



  3. David Benjamin
    January 4, 2013

    ROHScompliant makes a point I made to my EBN editor when he asked me to write this column. I'm not a supply chain guy. Why should I write a column for EBN? But Bola said he wanted a touch of diversity in EBN, under the assumption that industry people sometmes ponder subjects outside the industry. He expected complains from some readers troubled by horizontal discourse, but said don't worry.

    I'm strangely reminded of my days working the cafeteria line in college, filling plates at lunch and dinner for my fellow students. Inevitably, someone, then someone else, then twenty others, would express the opinion that tonight's main course was not what they had in mind as fine dining. My response, the only response possible, was always the same: “If you don't like it, you don't have to eat it.”


  4. bolaji ojo
    January 4, 2013

    This is our one single “whatever-blog.” Our goal with the Sanity Clause is to stray occasionally or regularly from the beaten path. If you'd like to comment on David Benjamin's blogs please go ahead but if it's too far from the industry topic just pass on these.

  5. bolaji ojo
    January 4, 2013

    That's still our position. We have 99 percent of our blogs on “industry topics” but since we are not wedded to supply chain alone, we'll let our Sanity Clause continue to excite or annoy us with whatever David Benjamin is interested in tackling. As long as you continue to irritate or excite us!

  6. rohscompliant
    January 4, 2013

    Well put gentlemen; understood.

    In the immortal words form Moe to Curley (3 stooges reference)……..”Hey…..don't ya know…….there aint no Sanity Clause”

  7. David Benjamin
    January 4, 2013

    Actually, it was Chico to Groucho (“A Night at the Opera”). The Stooges were never that literary.


  8. R.J.Matthews
    January 4, 2013

    On one level it is a supply chain issue, controlling or not controlling a product and its distribution.

    Was tempted not to post because it is not a comfortable subject to discuss here but then i thought it is not a comfortable subject to discuss anywhere.

    Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.


  9. rohscompliant
    January 4, 2013

    Yes, google is a great tool for fact checking such things. But the Stooges are well known for ripping from the Marx Brothers. There is an episode in which Moe did use the line.

    But cudos to you………hats off to you.

  10. Eldredge
    January 5, 2013

    “However, in justifying his private arsenal, Eric casually articulated a dogma that's been perpetuated by the National Rifle Association and its allies on Fox News”


    Can you identify who on Fox News has articulated the dogma you stated? I don't think that I have heard that.

    Also, regarding government, your cognitive dissonance example seems to make the argument that larger government, which becomes more inept, must as a consequence also become more benign, or at least incapable of oppressing it's citizens. Government is very capable of being inept is some areas and oppressive in others.

  11. rohscompliant
    January 7, 2013

    When seconds count…………..the police are minutes away.

    Better to have a gun and not need it………..then to need one and not have one.

    Responsible gun ownership!

  12. Ariella
    January 7, 2013

    I don't own a gun or really get involved in the debate about gun ownership. However, I did have to look into the issue for a piece for a client. Interestingly, guns themselves are often the objects of crime. “About 1.4 million firearms were stolen during household burglaries and other property crimes over the six-year period from 2005 through 2010,” according to the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). “This number represents an estimated average of 232,400 firearms stolen each year- about 172,000 stolen during burglaries and 60,300 stolen during other property crimes.”

  13. rohscompliant
    January 7, 2013

    And Diane Feinstein the 'esteemed' Senator from California is married to a man who amassed part of his fortune by legally trading in fire arms and munitions which are mfg'd in China……he is an accomplished arms dealer / broker……….and she is sponsoring an assualt gun ban bill…………..oh the hypocrisy of it all……..I love these people in DC who think they know far better and what is good and just and fair for thier constituents.

  14. Barbara Jorgensen
    January 7, 2013

    Setting aside the emotional component–as if anyone possibly could–the NRA's assertion that adding more guns to school grounds is absurd. Many gun fatalities come from accidental use of nearby guns or one's own gun being used against the owner. So let's make guns more accessible by putting them at the doors to schools rather than in someone's home. At least gun manufacturers will sell more guns…

    The one big difference I can see regarding Prohibition is, prohibition and drug laws are targeted at substances that harm the user first–bystanders are harmed if users become mobile. Guns are designed to harm someone or something else as their first and most important use. There is a difference between the protection of self and the protection of others: gun control falls into the latter category, I believe, and therefore people who do not own guns should have a signifiacnt say in the matter.

  15. Susan Fourtané
    January 8, 2013


    You must be one of the few Americans who doesn't own a gun. I appreciate your not owning one. 

    I don't get involved in the debate about gun ownership, and didn't and don't want to get involved in any discussion about the results of owning guns and using them in the 21st century.

    However, I enjoy Clint Eastwood movies and TV shows. I just refuse to understand the fact that it seems like in some places nothing has changed since the times those movies and TV shows are depicting. 


  16. Ariella
    January 8, 2013

    @Susan I'm sure most Americans don't own guns. I'll try to find the stats on that.  In states like New York, there are very strict laws surrounding gun permits, which are not cheap and have to be renewed regularly. Also the permits that residents of New York obtain only allow them to keep a gun at home or at work, not to carry it on them. 

  17. Susan Fourtané
    January 8, 2013


    Yes, a while after having written the comment I was wondering if I should start asking my American friends if they own a gun, something like a little research to get a basic stats –at least from my friends– about this. 


  18. rohscompliant
    January 8, 2013

    I do not own a gun, do not want a gun, but firmly believe that gun ownership is a constitutional right, I am small government, and firmly believe that whenever gvt sticks it's nose in my business things only get worse….that being said……talk to the kids @ VA Tech that are not allowed to carry guns on campus, look at the massacre in CO @ the movie theatre, also Fort Hood …………all were 'gun free zones'…….the perps knew it and took advantage of it……I am not a fan of guns in schools either but look into the small county in TX (outside of Houston I believe) that has a in school system policy of an administrator or teacher anonomously allowed to carry a gun. Only the school committe and superintendent know who is allowed to carry that gun. The public knows of the policy and more parents outside the district are trying to get their kids into that system………..i would be happy to take odds that a gun violent crime will not be committed in that school district……..vermon that committ these crimes are just that …vermon! And cowards! They will not attempt their heinous cowardly acts where THEY KNOW someone may be carrying a gun.

    Gun prohobition is not a solution…….knives, bats, auto's, poison they are all potentialy assult weapons, ….oh and lest we forget …….jet airliners loaded w/ passangers and jet fuel ……….give it some thought.

    Can a box cutter be an assault weapon???

  19. Ariella
    January 8, 2013

    @Susan I found this: 

    According to the Congressional Research Service, in 2009 there were an estimated 310 million firearms in the United States (not including weapons on military bases), of which 114 million were handguns, 110 million were rifles, and 86 million were shotguns. The current population of the United States, according to the Census, is around 314 million.

    A separate calculation by the Government Accountability Office estimated that 118 million handguns were available for sale to, or were possessed by, civilians in the United States in 2010.

    It's impossible to know for certain how many guns are in private hands because there is no central firearms registry. The 1986 McClure-Volkmer Act forbids the federal government from establishing any “system of registration of firearms, firearm owners, or firearms transactions or distribution.” And the 1993 Brady Act prohibits the establishment of any electronic registry of firearms, firearms owners, or firearms transactions………..

    A 2005 data review done by a panel of criminologists, statisticians, and epidemiologists for the National Research Council concluded that there is a lack of reliable data and “in some instances-firearms violence prevention, for example-there are no data at all.”
    The NRC report said that “none of the existing data sources, by itself or in combination with others, provides comprehensive, timely, and accurate data needed to answer many important questions pertaining to the role of firearms in violent events.”
    The panel reported that “even some of the most basic descriptive questions cannot be answered with existing data.” It cited such unanswered questions as:
    • What proportion of suicide or homicide victims were under the care of a mental health professional? What proportion of those victims were intoxicated at the time of death?
    • In what proportion of spouse or intimate-partner homicides committed with a gun does the offender take his own life or the lives of the victim's children or protectors?
    • Did the number of people shot with “assault weapons” change after Congress enacted the 1994 ban on certain types of such weapons?

  20. Ariella
    January 8, 2013

    @Susan as for the problems with accurate data, though who has a permit for a gun is a matter of public record, publicizing that fact is a different matter. That came up recently when a paper did publish a map of gun owners. As I mentioned a few comments back, guns are often stolen by burglars, and it is possible that the homes that contain arms would be more tempting as targets. One New York county office refused to release that information to the Journal News that wished to publish it. TechCrunch carried the story here:

  21. Susan Fourtané
    January 8, 2013


    I understand that county office that refused to reveal the data for the gun map. Not easy topic. As much as I am not for guns, I believe a gun map helps no one but burglars. Maybe to go and steal them, as you mentioned below, yes. Gee! What a mess. 


  22. Susan Fourtané
    January 8, 2013


    I agree with Dennis Sant here:” “In Putnam County I have over 11,000 pistol permit holders, and I refuse to put their lives and their families' lives in danger,” County Clerk Dennis Sant  told  The New York Times , regarding the  The Journal News ' request for the public information.”

    The fact that some information is public doesn't mean that the ones in charge of it don't have to be responsible, and act according to some common sense according to the individual situations. 


  23. Ariella
    January 8, 2013

    @Susan Yes, I believe that he saw there was an implicit threat to those households whose addresses would be published. And that is something to consider: is all information that is considered public to be publicized in print?

  24. Susan Fourtané
    January 8, 2013

    Thanks, Ariella. 

    It's very interesting what you found. If all or most of the data concerning guns is secret data all or most of the conversation around the topic is mostly based on assumptions, or in speculation. Oh, well. 

    I find the following quite alarming: “According to the Congressional Research Service, in 2009 there were an estimated 310 million firearms in the United States (not including weapons on military bases), of which 114 million were handguns, 110 million were rifles, and 86 million were shotguns. The current population of the United States, according to the Census, is around 314 million.” 

    This only means that you are part of the little 4 million who don't own a gun of some sort. 


  25. Ariella
    January 8, 2013

    @Susan Where I live, I don't think I'm in the minority. I believe most people around here do not own guns. I have heard of some people who do own guns a couple of town over. I believe they obtained them because there was quite a bit of crime there, and they believed they needed protection. But those were just a handful of people.  

  26. Susan Fourtané
    January 8, 2013


    Yes, that's an excellent question. As I said, there has to be responsibility and common sense when deciding which public data goes in print, in which one could cause damage to the individuals if it goes in print, like this case of the Google map of gun owners. It's like sending an open letter to the burglars with all the addresses and details they need to go and do “their job”. 


  27. Susan Fourtané
    January 8, 2013



    The bit I commented on from the article was about the total amount of guns in the country. But it is certainly very nice that most people in your area don't own a gun. That also means that they feel safe, and there is no trouble. 

    I wonder if the fact of buying guns to feel safe has also something to do with how people feel about the police? 



  28. Ariella
    January 8, 2013

    @Susan  Now I never thought of it quite this way, but now that you bring it up, it is possible they think of it as a form of self-sufficiency that parallels some of the other community's efforts to help in an emergency. There are organizations for volunteer EMTs and even roadside assistance in New York precisely because the standard ones available take so long to get there. Perhaps they view guns in the same way, a self-service solution when it takes too long for the police to arrive to rely on them for protection. 

  29. Susan Fourtané
    January 9, 2013


    Well, there is a good possibility. If I try to reasoning about it taking as a starting point the question “why would somone would keep a gun at home?”, and then I connect some dots, I have to come up to that conclusion. That leads to another question: why wouldn't citizens rely on the police for protection? There is always a reason behind a fact, right? 

    Yes, I know about some of those volunteer programs. I have a friend there who took a course as a law enforcement volunteer. Maybe I could ask him, too. 

    It would be interesting to see data about the level of corruption and crime in different areas in comparison with the number of guns. For instance, you mentioned that in your area most of the people don't own a gun. So I deducted that most likely your area has to be a quite safe area, with less crime, and less need for self-protection. Maybe the local police acts faster, and more efficiently, too. 


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