Does Drug Enforcement Cause Overdose Deaths?

A plausible economic theory states that prohibition of drugs or alcohol will increase the potency of the drugs that people consume illegally. More potent drugs are more economical for both users and dealers because they pack a bigger punch into a smaller volume, making them easier to transport and to conceal. Potent drugs can sometimes also deliver the required dose more quickly, which can help users to evade detection. There is evidence, for example, that alcohol prohibition during the 1920s caused an increase in the consumption of hard liquor relative to beer and wine. After all, there’s no point risking arrest at a speakeasy just to nurse a lite beer; the point is to get smashed.

The other problem with illegal drugs is the lack of quality control. So at the same time that the drugs are more potent, the lack of transparency and quality control makes the level of potency difficult for the user to determine. This uncertainty regarding potency dramatically increases the likelihood of overdose.

The conclusion is that the War on Drugs actually causes users to resort to drugs that are more dangerous than they might otherwise consume. Perhaps not so coincidentally, America’s current heroin epidemic took off right after authorities cracked down on prescription opioids like OxyContin. Abusing prescription opioids is bad; but at least OxyContin is produced by a reputable pharmaceutical company and not cooked up by gangsters in a Mexican hideout.

Now the New York Times reports that potency on the illicit market has ratcheted up to the point where people are using synthetic opioids up to 5,000 times more potent than heroin. The stuff is so dangerous that a tiny speck can kill, and cops are refusing to field test samples for fear of coming in contact with the stuff. The synthetic opioids are largely responsible for a record 200 overdoses in Cincinnati in just a two-week period.

Addiction specialists said the sharp increases in overdoses were a grim symptom of America’s heroin epidemic, and of the growing prevalence of powerful synthetic opiates like fentanyl. The synthetics are often mixed into batches of heroin, or sprinkled into mixtures of caffeine, antihistamines and other fillers.
In Cincinnati, some medical and law enforcement officials said they believed the overdoses were largely caused by a synthetic drug called carfentanil, an animal tranquilizer used on livestock and elephants with no practical uses for humans. Fentanyl can be 50 times stronger than heroin, and carfentanil is as much as 100 times more potent than fentanyl. Experts said an amount smaller than a snowflake could kill a person.

Around Cincinnati, police officers and sheriff’s deputies are so concerned about the potency of carfentanil and other synthetic opioids that they carry overdose-reversing naloxone sprays for themselves, in case they accidentally inhale or touch the tiniest flake.

The problem is growing so fast that overdose deaths in Hamilton County have doubled since 2012, and in the overall Cincinnati area overdose reports have more than doubled in just the past six months.

Meanwhile, the only response to the problem seems to be to send more and more people to jail. That’s the response in particular from the ‘law and order’ types in the rural and suburban counties. The New York Times published another fascinating report about how the Drug War is filling up jails in rural and suburban counties. Dearborn County, Indiana, just a bit west of Cincinnati, now sends more people to prison per capita than nearly any county in America.

By 2014, Dearborn County sentenced more people to prison than San Francisco or Westchester County, N.Y., which each have at least 13 times as many people.

A collection of small, quiet towns near the Ohio River, Dearborn County does not look like a prison capital. Violent crime is rare. There are few empty storefronts. And local officials, flush with money brought in by a popular local casino, have built a convention center and a high school football field fit for a movie set.
But the extraordinarily high incarceration rate here — about one in 10 adults is in prison, jail or probation — is driven less by crime and poverty than by a powerful prosecutor, hard-line judges and a growing heroin epidemic.
Opioid addiction spread early here. Mr. Negangard, the prosecutor, has fought the heroin crisis by aggressively going after drug crimes.
“If you’re not prosecuting, then you’re de facto legalizing it,” Mr. Negangard said.

But maybe legalizing would stop people from overdosing because they wouldn’t have to resort to taking elephant drugs smuggled from Mexico.

If legalization, de facto or otherwise, seems too risky, then we can at least halt the crackdown on prescription pills and focus just on the really dangerous opioids.

Donnie Gaddis picked the wrong county to sell 15 oxycodone pills to an undercover officer.

If Mr. Gaddis had been caught 20 miles to the east, in Cincinnati, he would have received a maximum of six months in prison, court records show. In San Francisco or Brooklyn, he would probably have received drug treatment or probation, lawyers say.

But Mr. Gaddis lived in Dearborn County, Ind., which sends more people to prison per capita than nearly any other county in the United States. After agreeing to a plea deal, he was sentenced to serve 12 years in prison.

“Years? Holy Toledo — I’ve settled murders for a lot less than that,” said Philip Stephens, a public defender in Cincinnati.

If we’re punishing people more for prescription pills than for murder, and the drug problem only gets worse, maybe it’s time to try a different approach.

Black Harvard Economist: Evidence Contradicts BLM Narrative

The Black Lives Matter protest movement which continues to roil cities across America is based primarily on the premise that police are more likely to shoot suspects who are black. Until now, that belief has been rooted almost entirely on feelings and a few anecdotes. A Harvard economist, however, decided to obtain some real evidence by…wait for it…examining data.

Mr. Fryer, the youngest African-American to receive tenure at Harvard and the first to win a John Bates Clark medal, a prize given to the most promising American economist under 40, said anger after the deaths of Michael Brown, Freddie Gray and others drove him to study the issue. “You know, protesting is not my thing,” he said. “But data is my thing. So I decided that I was going to collect a bunch of data and try to understand what really is going on when it comes to racial differences in police use of force.”

He and student researchers spent about 3,000 hours assembling detailed data from police reports in Houston; Austin, Tex.; Dallas; Los Angeles; Orlando, Fla.; Jacksonville, Fla.; and four other counties in Florida.

They examined 1,332 shootings between 2000 and 2015, coding police narratives to answer questions such as: How old was the suspect? How many police officers were at the scene? Were they mostly white? Was the officer at the scene for a robbery, violent activity, a traffic stop or something else? Was it nighttime? Did the officer shoot after being attacked or before a possible attack? One goal was to determine if police officers were quicker to fire at black suspects.

In shootings in these 10 cities involving officers, officers were more likely to fire their weapons without having first been attacked when the suspects were white. Black and white civilians involved in police shootings were equally likely to have been carrying a weapon. Both results undercut the idea of racial bias in police use of lethal force.

The aforementioned analysis involved only situations in which police shootings actually occurred. Oftentimes, however, a tense situation arises, but police do not shoot. The leads to the question as to whether, in a given tense situation, police are more likely to shoot at a black suspect than a white one. To answer this question, Dr. Fryer also put together a data set that included not just shootings, but instances when police did not shoot.

Mr. Fryer focused on one city, Houston. The Police Department there let the researchers look at reports not only for shootings but also for arrests when lethal force might have been justified. Mr. Fryer defined this group to include encounters with suspects the police subsequently charged with serious offenses like attempting to murder an officer, or evading or resisting arrest. He also considered suspects shocked with Tasers.

Mr. Fryer found that in such situations, officers in Houston were about 20 percent less likely to shoot if the suspects were black. This estimate was not precise, and firmer conclusions would require more data. But in various models controlling for different factors and using different definitions of tense situations, Mr. Fryer found that blacks were either less likely to be shot or there was no difference between blacks and whites.

“It is the most surprising result of my career,” said Dr. Fryer.

We’re not justifying all police shootings, but for a political movement to be worthy of respect or allegiance, it should be based on facts and not fallacy.

Does President Obama know about Dr. Fryer’s study? Does he care?

Fairfax County police: Raid first, ask questions later

Back during our days in grad school, we lived for a few years in Fairfax County, Virginia. Thank goodness during those years we never had an experience like Alex Horton did with the Fairfax County Police.

I got home from the bar and fell into bed soon after Saturday night bled into Sunday morning. I didn’t wake up until three police officers barged into my apartment, barking their presence at my door. They sped down the hallway to my bedroom, their service pistols drawn and leveled at me.

It was just past 9 a.m., and I was still under the covers. The only visible target was my head.

[…]

My situation was terrifying. Lying facedown in bed, I knew that any move I made could be viewed as a threat…

In a panic, I asked the officers what was going on but got no immediate answer. Their tactics were similar to the ones I used to clear rooms during the height of guerilla warfare in Iraq. I could almost admire it — their fluid sweep from the bedroom doorway to the distant corner. They stayed clear of one another’s lines of fire in case they needed to empty their Sig Sauer .40-caliber pistols into me.

They were well-trained, their supervisor later told me. But I knew that means little when adrenaline governs an imminent-danger scenario, real or imagined. Triggers are pulled. Mistakes are made.

I spread my arms out to either side. An officer jumped onto my bed and locked handcuffs onto my wrists. The officers rolled me from side to side, searching my boxers for weapons, then yanked me up to sit on the edge of the bed.

At first, I was stunned. I searched my memory for any incident that would justify a police raid. Then it clicked.

Earlier in the week, the managers of my apartment complex moved me to a model unit while a crew repaired a leak in my dishwasher. But they hadn’t informed my temporary neighbors. So when one resident noticed the door slightly cracked open to what he presumed was an unoccupied apartment, he looked in, saw me sleeping and called the police to report a squatter.

Don’t miss the part of the story where the shift commander at the police station, when questioned, defends the officers’ actions.

Is this what passes for professional police work in 21st century America? Because a dangerous situation might easily have been avoided by talking with the guard at the gate or contacting the property manager or even…wait for it…knocking peaceably at the apartment door. Why does it seem like cops nowadays want to escalate every routine call into some sort of hostage crisis?

This situation also might have been averted if the silly neighbor had first contacted the security guard or the property manager instead of immediately calling the cops. Too many people in our increasingly risk-averse society seem to have the police on speed-dial. Calling the cops doesn’t always make things better because cops arrive prepared to use force in a situation they usually don’t fully understand. Maybe people imagine that when they call the cops they’re going to have an unarmed Andy Griffith show up to sort everything out using Southern charm and sweet reason, but that’s obviously not the case. Before calling the cops, people should first ask themselves, “Would this situation be improved by adding to the mix some uptight, unionized, public employees with guns and qualified immunity?” If you can’t answer yes, don’t call the police.

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Civil Forfeiture at Airports Too

We’ve heard about civil forfeiture at the roadside and on trains, but of course the Feds have not forgotten planes as well. Basically, it is now illegal in America to travel at all with large amounts of cash. That’s in addition to the apparent crime of making multiple cash withdrawls of less than $10,000 from a bank account.

The following story hits hits home for us because it involves an airport that we frequent.

Carrying large amounts of cash is not a crime, yet thousands of Americans who do so are being treated like criminals. Law enforcement officials are using civil forfeiture to seize the cash of domestic travelers at airports, like 24-year-old Charles Clarke. Charles had $11,000 seized at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky airport in 2014.

In February 2014, law enforcement officials took Charles’ entire life savings right before he was scheduled to board a flight, and they have kept his money for over a year.

[…]

Charles saved his money for the past five years from financial aid, various jobs, educational benefits based on his mother’s status as a disabled veteran and gifts from family. Charles was visiting relatives in Cincinnati while he and his mother were moving to a new apartment back in Florida. He did not want to lose the $11,000, so he took it with him. On his way home, law enforcement officials at the airport seized Charles’ money because they claimed his checked bag smelled like marijuana. Although Charles was a recreational smoker at the time, the officers did not find any drugs or anything illegal on his person or in his carry-on or checked bag. The government should have to prove that Charles committed a crime if it wants to keep his money.

“Carrying cash is not a crime,” explained IJ Attorney Darpana Sheth. “No one should lose their life savings when no drugs or evidence of any crime are found on them or their belongings.”

Since the late 1990s, the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky airport police took part in a couple dozen seizures per year—but by 2013 that figure skyrocketed to almost 100 seizures, totaling more than $2 million.

Almost 100 seizures at just one airport, and an airport that is not even particularly large. That’s an average of two seizures a week. Amazing. We’ll never view Cincinnati airport the same way again.

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Too Much Government: Lemonade Edition

Breaking News: Overton, Texas has NO CRIME. Overton can’t possibly have any real crime, because police there had time to accost two young girls and their mother for operating a lemonade stand without a city permit.

“You get a permit with the city to serve this?” the officer asks.

“I didn’t know I had to,” the mother replies.

“Yes ma’am,” the officer says.

“Really?” the mother asks, “for a lemonade stand? I had no clue.”

“Yes ma’am,” the officer replies.

A moment later the mothers says, “I knew we had to for garage sales and stuff like that, but I didn’t know little kids had to for a lemonade stand.”

The officer replies, “We just have to enforce ’em. We don’t write ’em.”

Before obtaining the permit, the family will have to submit to an inspection of their kitchen by the health board. For a lemonade stand.

The cop tries to deflect responsibility by indicating that he just enforces the laws, and doesn’t write them. And indeed, that’s true, and it’s always been the case that America has had too many stupid laws. Inevitably, a lot of legislators will be stupid people who write stupid laws. That has always been true, and probably always will be true.

And yet, it seems that in America something has changed. We don’t recall, back in the day, reading stories about cops taking down kids’ lemonade stands. The source of the change is probably not on the legislative side so much as on the enforcement side. We have just too damn many government agents breathing down our necks enforcing all the stupid laws and regulations. Government is just too damn big and employs too damn many people.

What’s the solution? Starve the beast by having a massive tax revolt. We need to return to the America of the 1920s when taxes were low and government was forced to operate on a shoestring. Government employees were poorly paid and sat on hard chairs in poorly heated offices. Those were the days. Now, in contrast, government at all levels operates with a money-is-no-object attitude and government employees enjoy generous salaries and pension and benefit plans generally unmatched in the private sector.

How many taxpayers really want to pay for lemonade-stand enforcement? We don’t. If that’s how government uses our money, then we want our money back.

Starve the beast. Overton, Texas, obviously has too many cops. Cut taxes and lay off some cops. That’s our takeaway from the lemonade stand incident. That’s our inference from the facts. If the government has resources for lemonade-stand enforcement, then government has too many resources.

Fact: Overton, Texas won’t allow girls to operate a lemonade stand without permits and an inspection by the board of health.

Conclusion: We need a massive tax revolt.


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Free Speech in Retreat: The Case of Britain

At Reason online, Brendan O’Neill argues that free speech in Britain is dying, that the same fate could soon befall the U.S. O’Neill backs up his argument with a series of anecdotes involving suppression of speech, several of which come from just a single week in April. Here’s just one of those remarkable examples.

Policing Twitter:

A man has been investigated by the police for a hashtag he used on Twitter. Seriously. Never mind speechcrime, or even tweetcrime—now we have hashtagcrime, the criminalisation even of those snarky, ironic asides people pepper the internet with. The man in question, Stephen Dodds, committed the sin of taking a photograph of two Muslims praying at Anfield, the home ground of Liverpool Football Club, and posting it on Twitter alongside the tweet: “Muslims praying at half-time at the match yesterday. #DISGRACE.” That hashtag saw him become the victim of a furious Twitterstorm, the modern version of a tomato-wielding mob, and he was eventually reported to the cops. They investigated the matter for two weeks—two weeks!—before finally instructing Liverpool FC to take appropriate action against the evil hashtagger. Liverpool this week said it is deciding how to punish this man who dared to type the word “DISGRACE” on the internet.

Two weeks of police resources to investigate a man posting “#DISGRACE”. That’s almost two days per typed character.

O’Neill has more examples of British authorities criminalizing speech on social media.

In 2012, a student was imprisoned for 56 days for making racist comments on Twitter. Also in 2012, a 20-year-old man was sentenced to 240 hours’ community service for writing on his Facebook page: “All [British] soldiers should die and go to hell.”

Other tweeters have been arrested and interrogated by police for making off-colour comments. In December last year, a 19-year-old man was arrested for making a joke about the truck disaster in Glasgow, when an out-of-control truck hit Christmas shoppers and killed six. The tweeter said: “So a bin lorry has apparently driven into 100 people in Glasgow eh, probably the most trash it’s picked up in one day.” For that, for doing what people have been doing for generations—making up stinging jokes in the wake of a tragedy—he was arrested.

Anyway, it’s good to know that British police don’t have any real crime to investigate, like say, organized gangs raping underage British girls on an “industrial scale,” or anything like that.

O’Neill correctly notes that just a few cases of prosecuting speech can have a chilling effect on the whole of society.

The end result is a nation which poses as liberal and modern yet where everything from pics of a woman in a bikini to naughty jokes can be subjected to official sanction, and where everyone becomes less sure of what they’re allowed to say and thus tends to shut themselves up to be on the safe side.

Ominously, the government is now taking steps to start regulating the British press. This is legally permissible since the U.K., unlike the U.S., has no First Amendment.

Launched by David Cameron in 2011 ostensibly to investigate phone-hacking at the News of the World, but actually having the vastly expanded remit of looking into the whole “culture, practice, and ethics of the press,” the Leveson Inquiry has created a situation where Britain might soon have a press regulator set up by Royal Charter—which would be the first system of state-backed regulation of the press in Britain since 1695.

Some folks in the comment thread argued that speech is now freer, in both the U.S. and the U.K., that is was 100 years ago. For instance, commenter “rudehost” says the following.

Up until the 20th century states were completely free to restrict speech. It wasn’t until the incorporation doctrine of the 14th amendment that the first amendment applied to states. See Gitlow V New York. The Alien and Sedition acts go all the way back to our founding. Lincoln famously persecuted the copper heads etc. There was an article here some time ago about libertarians romanticizing a much freer past. In some ways we were definitely more libertarian especially at the federal level but many of those statist abuses were going on in the past they were just being done by the states not the federal government.

This is an astute observation. Speech really was less free 100 years ago, and libertarians have to be careful not to fall into the trap of overly romanticizing the past. Nonetheless, it does seem clear to us that speech just 20 or 30 years ago was freer than it is now. These days, everyone from academics to comedians has to be much more careful about what he says. The most recent trend has been adverse to speech.

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Liberal Fascism: Wisconsin Edition

If you can believe it, the following story is not from Soviet Russia, but from Wisconsin. You know, the supposed land of nice people and good government. Apparently, some Wisconsin citizens had the temerity to exercise their constitutional rights by engaging in political activism in support of Governor Scott Walker’s attempts to rein in the public employee unions. That political activism did not sit well with Milwaukee district attorney John Chisholm, whose wife, a teachers’-union shop steward, was reportedly “distraught” over Walker’s proposed union reforms. And so Chisholm, together with sympathetic judge Barbara Kluka, decided to go full fascist police state on his political opponents. The government’s persecution of citizens featured a wide array of classically fascist techniques, including spying, secret proceedings, and police raids on victims’ homes. The government’s actions involve potential violations of citizens’ constitutional rights to due process, as well as rights acknowledged by the First and Fourth Amendments.

Someone was pounding at her front door. It was early in the morning — very early — and it was the kind of heavy pounding that meant someone was either fleeing from — or bringing — trouble. “It was so hard. I’d never heard anything like it. I thought someone was dying outside.” She ran to the door, opened it, and then chaos. “People came pouring in. For a second I thought it was a home invasion. It was terrifying. They were yelling and running, into every room in the house. One of the men was in my face, yelling at me over and over and over.”

It was indeed a home invasion, but the people who were pouring in were Wisconsin law-enforcement officers. Armed, uniformed police swarmed into the house. Plainclothes investigators cornered her and her newly awakened family. Soon, state officials were seizing the family’s personal property, including each person’s computer and smartphone, filled with the most intimate family information. Why were the police at Anne’s home? She had no answers. The police were treating them the way they’d seen police treat drug dealers on television. In fact, TV or movies were their only points of reference, because they weren’t criminals. They were law-abiding. They didn’t buy or sell drugs. They weren’t violent. They weren’t a danger to anyone. Yet there were cops — surrounding their house on the outside, swarming the house on the inside. They even taunted the family as if they were mere “perps.”

As if the home invasion, the appropriation of private property, and the verbal abuse weren’t enough, next came ominous warnings. Don’t call your lawyer. Don’t tell anyone about this raid. Not even your mother, your father, or your closest friends.

If someone warns you not to call your lawyer, what should you do? As quickly as possible, you should call your lawyer.

[T]hey were American citizens guilty of nothing more than exercising their First Amendment rights to support Act 10 and other conservative causes in Wisconsin. Sitting there shocked and terrified, this citizen — who is still too intimidated to speak on the record — kept thinking, “Is this America?”

We’re asking ourselves that very same question. We’re also asking ourselves why this story, which should be the Story of the Year, is getting little or no attention in the major national media. The answer must be that the statist establishment has almost completely co-opted the major media outlets. And that is yet another very ominous development that does not bode well for the future of our free republic.

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Media Reports Police Brutality Selectively

John Hinderaker of Powerline had some trenchant observations regarding the recent news reports of police shootings that have stoked so much outrage across America.

These stories about the killings of African-American men by police officers (or by a “neighborhood watch captain,” in Trayvon Martin’s case) are all what my long-time radio and podcast partner Brian Ward calls “stories of choice.” They are plucked from a nearly endless supply of sad events that occur daily in a nation of 315 million, and are promoted because they further a political narrative. An unholy alliance of activists and newspaper reporters and editors tries to distort our perception of reality by giving undue emphasis to them. Then, of course, reality begins to catch up with perception, and we have riots, murders of police officers, and so on. But understand that the decision to promote these stories, in preference to others that are equally or more newsworthy, is a choice that is consciously made by people with a political agenda.

Pursuant to Hinderaker’s point about selective reporting, we present below a local news report of a story the national media did not see fit to promote. The national media ignored the story despite the fact that it offers a more unambiguous example of police misconduct than do the stories currently roiling the nation. Furthermore, this story features an additional source of outrage in the form of prosecutorial misconduct. The victim, however, was a bald-headed white male. For us, that description hits close to home. But for the national media, it doesn’t fit the agenda. That agenda seemingly has more to do with keeping certain elements of society distracted and agitated than it does with a serious attempt to tackle the problem of police brutality.

North Korea orders everyone sharing leader’s name to change it

Here is the story from Reuters:

North Korea has ordered people who share the name of leader Kim Jong Un to change their names, South Korea’s state-run KBS television reported on Wednesday.

North Korea imposed similar bans on the use of the names of its two former leaders, Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, and grandfather, Kim Il Sung, as part of propaganda drives to build cults of personality around them.

Kim Jong Un’s name is not allowed for newborns and people who share the name must not just stop using it but must change it on their birth certificates and residence registrations, KBS reported, citing an official North Korean directive.

OK, sounds reasonable.  Hopefully, they will also have the good sense to ban all North Korean citizens from being able to use Kim’s hairdresser.

More Laws Mean More State Violence

Many commentators this week reflected on the lessons we might learn from the tragic case of Eric Garner, who died at the hands of the police. Some of the best insights came from Stephen L. Carter, the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Yale. Carter’s takeaway is that we shouldn’t make a law unless we are prepared to see the police use potentially deadly violence to enforce it.

On the opening day of law school, I always counsel my first-year students never to support a law they are not willing to kill to enforce. Usually they greet this advice with something between skepticism and puzzlement, until I remind them that the police go armed to enforce the will of the state, and if you resist, they might kill you.

I wish this caution were only theoretical. It isn’t. Whatever your view on the refusal of a New York City grand jury to indict the police officer whose chokehold apparently led to the death of Eric Garner, it’s useful to remember the crime that Garner is alleged to have committed: He was selling individual cigarettes, or loosies, in violation of New York law.

[…]

It’s not just cigarette tax laws that can lead to the death of those the police seek to arrest. It’s every law. Libertarians argue that we have far too many laws, and the Garner case offers evidence that they’re right. I often tell my students that there will never be a perfect technology of law enforcement, and therefore it is unavoidable that there will be situations where police err on the side of too much violence rather than too little. Better training won’t lead to perfection. But fewer laws would mean fewer opportunities for official violence to get out of hand.

[…]

Part of the problem, Husak suggests, is the growing tendency of legislatures — including Congress — to toss in a criminal sanction at the end of countless bills on countless subjects. It’s as though making an offense criminal shows how much we care about it.

Well, maybe so. But making an offense criminal also means that the police will go armed to enforce it. Overcriminalization matters, Husak says, because the costs of facing criminal sanction are so high and because the criminal law can no longer sort out the law-abiding from the non-law-abiding. True enough. But it also matters because — as the Garner case reminds us — the police might kill you…

It’s unlikely that the New York legislature, in creating the crime of selling untaxed cigarettes, imagined that anyone would die for violating it. But a wise legislator would give the matter some thought before creating a crime. Officials who fail to take into account the obvious fact that the laws they’re so eager to pass will be enforced at the point of a gun cannot fairly be described as public servants.

[…]

Every new law requires enforcement; every act of enforcement includes the possibility of violence. There are many painful lessons to be drawn from the Garner tragedy, but one of them, sadly, is the same as the advice I give my students on the first day of classes: Don’t ever fight to make something illegal unless you’re willing to risk the lives of your fellow citizens to get your way.

Don’t want drugs to be legal? OK, but recognize that you are therefore authorizing the police to initiate violence against those who disagree with you. And these days, that violence includes no-knock raids involving the use of grenade launchers, battering rams, machine guns, and armored cars. Not surprisingly, deploying such tactics and weaponry leads to deaths. When the state initiates violence, horrible things can happen. Consider the following story from a nice, leafy suburb in Connecticut.

The disturbing operation happened on the afternoon of May 18th, 2008. Homeowner Ronald Terebesi was sitting in his living room with his friend, 33-year-old Gonzalo Guizan of Norwalk.

At around 2:00 p.m., the entrance door of 91 Dogwood Drive in Easton was abruptly splintered by a battering ram. In an instant, explosions were rocking the house and shadowy figures dressed in black poured into the home. When the smoke cleared and the chaos was over, Mr. Guizan lied in a pool of blood, shot multiple times.

The violence wasn’t the result of a street gang or cartel; the gun-wielding men were members of a SWAT team serving a no-knock search warrant for narcotics. The explosions were three (3) flashbang grenades that police had tossed through the windows and doors.

Besides killing Mr. Guizan, police allegedly assaulted Mr. Terebesi by pinning him to the floor and hitting him in the head with a rifle stock. Officers then tore apart the home looking for contraband.

[…]

Following the operation, police had little to show for their efforts. Besides Mr. Guizan’s bullet-riddled body, they took a scale, a couple glass pipes, a legal Vicotin prescription, an empty tin, and no weapons.

The prize of the operation was the recovery of an empty plastic bag with colored “residue” of drugs on it.

These drug raids occur on a daily basis, and quite often people are killed. Those who support the drug laws would do well to keep in mind the image of a body riddled with bullets just because someone might have been getting high.

Any law on the books gives the state license to use potentially deadly force. That’s why we should have as few laws as possible. The laws should cover only serious offenses against persons and property, and not trivial offenses such as the conditions under which cigarettes may be sold.

It follows that we must resist the temptation to criminalize any little thing that we don’t like. Recently, a video went viral showing a woman repeatedly harassed with catcalls as she walked the streets of New York. In response to the catcall video, people wasted no time in calling for catcalling to be criminalized.

“I agree that there should be a law against street harassment,” wrote a commenter named Andrea from Boston. “I am sick of people telling me that a man’s First Amendment right is more important than my right to feel safe in public places.”

Reader SZ agreed.

“There should be a law. It is scary and infuriating. Who are they to ruin my day? Who are they to attempt to diminish me? I have no recourse,” SZ complained, apparently seriously. “Anything I say or do inspires more unwanted attention. The bullies have made the law necessary.”

But a law against catcalling will have to be enforced with violence that can sometimes become deadly. How many people are Andrea from Boston and SZ prepared to see killed in order to stop men from daring to speak to women without permission?

We’ll let Ed have the last word.

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