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Gun Rights & Marijuana Reform -- Issues Joined!

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Gun rights activists are generally perceived as coming from the political right while marijuana reformers are typically thought of as belonging to the political left . Ironically, if they can get past their reflexive distrust of each other, the two groups would discover that their pursuit of civil liberties is quite similar. The violence associated with the black markets created by Prohibition of marijuana provides political cover and motivation to those seeking to permanently curtail our 2nd Amendment rights in the name of law and order. Gun owners should understand that much of the impulse to over-regulate and ban firearms would evaporate overnight--along with much of the crime--by joining forces with the anti-Prohibition forces to take away the lucrative black market for both drugs and guns by legalizing marijuana.

To begin with, right/left-wing activists should understand that the expansion of federal power to curtail their favored liberties--to keep and bear arms on one side and to consume whatever substance consenting adult (or their physicians) desire on the other--began at roughly the same time. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) was organized in response to the 1968 Gun Control Act. While its stated mission has been to support the nation's gun laws to prevent criminals and mentally incompetent people from acquiring firearms, the BATF has a history of what might kindly be termed "overzealousness." The completely avoidable carnage in Waco, TX and the recent revelations that the ATF has been one of the primary suppliers of weapons to Mexican drug cartels via ill-conceived operations that have resulted in mayhem and death, e.g. Fast and Furious, are among many examples of the BATF's dysfunctional approach to law enforcement.

The second movement enacted at the time that illustrates the view of Americans as children in need of federal supervision was the War on Drugs announced by Richard Nixon in 1971. Whatever inappropriate zest the BATF may be accused of pales in comparison to the victimization of our citizens by the War on Drugs; which is really a War on Drug Users, AKA Americans. The direct cost (51 billion annually) to our court and prison systems is well known. Less understood is the indirect cost in ruined lives, sundered families and the pervasive violence that surrounds the drug trade as it does any highly profitable black market.

"Combating crime" is a political cliche pandering politicians have invoked to control both guns and drugs for decades. But blaming either guns or drugs for violence is an intellectual cop-out. Neither per se causes violence. Competition for control of lucrative illegal markets for banned drugs makes violence an inevitable means to settle arguments since neither the courts nor the police enforce business transactions between gangsters. While this ongoing violence fuels misguided outcries to add more gun prohibitions on top of drug prohibition this secondary prohibition only creates another black market in guns; one that is exploited by the criminals themselves and leads to additional crime, e.g. burglaries in search of firearms.

Forget for the moment that over the last four decades we have squandered over a trillion dollars waging this unwinnable war . Forget that we shelled out $450 billion in federal corrections dollars or $190 billion to police our porous borders, arrest 37 million non-violent drug offenders in our country and pay for policing other countries. Don't even think about the tax dollars that flowed from State treasury coffers into this economic sinkhole. Why add that stress to a country teetering on bankruptcy?

Returning to the BATF, in addition to killing civilians in the U.S. via armed assaults (Waco) or in Mexico with gun-running operations (Fast and Furious), this agency also leads the charge in the expansion of federal powers in the War on Drugs via bureaucratic rule-setting: this month the ATF has announced -- without input from Congress or the public -- that anyone who has a state-issued medical marijuana card is no longer eligible to own a gun. The Drug Policy Alliance estimates that this action has instantly deprived 1,000,000 Americans -- yes, one million -- of their 2nd Amendment rights with the stroke of a pen. Using similar bureaucratic moves, the Department of Justice (which, not incidentally, runs the BATF) this month also announced attacks on the 1st Amendment by threatening to seize the assets of newspapers which run ads for state-licensed medical marijuana dispensaries.

The more of our increasingly scarce tax-funded resources we spend on attempting to prevent drugs (mainly marijuana) from coming into the country, the more the price goes up, the greater the profits for criminals, the higher the pressure becomes to give up more of our civil liberties while pouring more money into what we should now recognize to be a bottomless pit. Few politicians have the guts to change paradigms, but America's gun owners are known for their prowess and intellectual honesty when it comes to preserving our firearm freedoms.

As President of the Independent Firearm Owners Association (IFOA), I believe the time has come for activists across the political spectrum to join forces with marijuana reform campaigns in order to protect our civil liberties. The actions of the Obama administration require that gun activists protect our own 2nd Amendment liberties by helping others protect their rights to be treated like adults, thereby decreasing violence in the country and lessening calls for gun control.

By ending drug prohibition we have a merging of the right and left down the pro-freedom, independent center of the road. What a powerful alliance these two movements could become. Gun rights activists could negate the emotional rhetoric for gun control while marijuana reformers would find powerful political and grass roots support to end the insanity of marijuana prohibition. Our nation is teetering on the verge of bankruptcy; let's stop digging our financial grave any deeper, let's learn from our own history for a change: end marijuana prohibition; stop wasting 100's of billions of dollars every year in policing, prosecuting, and incarcerating our citizens; stop funding drug gangs, ruining civil society and corrupting our law enforcement agencies on both sides of the southern border. This is a clear case where government doing less will mean doing more to lower crime, save money and help protect and preserve our civil liberties.

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