Guns, Drugs and Prohibition
Article by Danny Kushlick in The Times October 12 2004 October 12, 2004 Ending the guns-drugs connection BY DANNY KUSHLICK
YET another youngster has died, shot dead in what appears to be a tragic and awful mistake. Although it is too early to know whether Danielle Beccan’s murderers were drug-dealers, her death — in a city with a bloody recent history of drug-related crime — forces us to ask whether drug prohibition itself could be fuelling much of this vicious chaos.
It is all too easy to put this kind of killing down to “drug-fuelled evil-doers”. But the trade in illegal drugs, beyond the control of police and Government, is worth an estimated £6.6 billion a year in the UK.
Imagine for a moment how you would manage your business if you were a cocaine dealer. It is an incredibly lucrative trade, where a dealer can make thousands of pounds a week in untaxed income. For many individuals, with few other prospects, such profits are “to die for”. Their niche in the market is worth defending with guns; and it’s worth using violence to move in on someone else’s turf.
Most deals are conducted by a middle-market wholesaler providing a street-level retailer with the drugs on credit. He does this safe in the knowledge that he will be repaid because the debt can be enforced through violence and, increasingly, gun violence.
Doesn’t this sound familiar? Seventy years ago the US ended its 13-year experiment to ban the production and sale of alcohol because of the anarchy that Prohibition had produced. Lest anyone forget, the St Valentine’s Day Massacre was the result of drug-related turf wars.
After alcohol was relegalised the obvious move for organised crime and petty criminals looking for a fast buck was newly prohibited drugs. And it has been thus ever since. Sadly, continuing prohibition has firmly entrenched the drugs-and-guns culture across the globe. The only difference now is that the violence is increasingly touching the lives of ordinary people.
There is a simple way out. It is the legalisation and government regulation of currently prohibited drugs. Legalisation is the ultimate crime-reduction tool; it ends the vast profits on offer to organised — and disorganised, wantonly violent — criminals in the illegal market. No one is pretending that the criminals will become florists, but legalisation takes away the opportunity to make vast quantities of easy money. It is the chaos of this violent market that puts children in the firing line.
Danny Kushlick is Director of Transform Drug Policy Foundation (www.tdpf.org.uk)
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Contributed by Jim Murray