Drunk and Defenseless
Amid the recent maelstrom of stories that has been circulating regarding the Second Amendment and its place in American society, my attention was drawn to one seemingly insignificant Fox News piece about a winemaker, in protest, refusing to sell through the NRA Web site. I say this is a seemingly insignificant piece because there are countless people and organizations out there who hate the NRA, and adding one Australian winemaker to the list is hardly news. To me, though, it is significant in that it embodies the blatant hypocrisy and contradiction that can be seen in developed nations when it comes to the way their laws and their activist groups deal with firearms compared to the way they deal with addictive and harmful substances.
According to the Guardian, 8,583 murders were committed with firearms in the U.S. in 2011. This is a lot of people, for sure. I do not deny the tragedy of this fact for one second. However, when I see people using these numbers to advocate either complete or partial firearm bans, I always wonder: what about alcohol? In comparison, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that, as of 2010, over 15,000 people die from alcoholic liver disease in our country every year. The number for "alcohol-induced deaths, excluding accidents and homicides" is over 25,000. Why are we arguing so passionately for gun control while ignoring alcohol?
The immediate response to these figures would be to say that a slow, agonizing death from alcoholic liver disease cannot be compared to suddenly getting gunned down at the mall. I admit that I do see the difference: I think I just might prefer to be gunned down. However, if we only want to count sudden, violent deaths, we need but to look at the roughly 16,000 people who, according to the Council on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse, are killed annually in our country as a result of drunk driving.
But we should not stop there. While guns are linked to murders, alcohol is linked to much more than just that. A considerable number of all violent crimes in the United States -- not just murders -- are directly tied to alcohol use. (Would it be reasonable to think that perhaps half of all of those gun-enabled murders would not have happened if not for the influence of alcohol?) On top of this, how many cases of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse occur every year as a direct result of alcohol abuse? How many cases of unemployment and homelessness can be tied directly to alcohol? How many instances of sexually transmitted disease -- whether something annoying like herpes or a bit more potent like HIV -- come as a direct result of alcohol-induced "partying"? How many teen pregnancies occur due to said "partying"? How many random non-automotive accidents kill and injure people as a direct result of inebriation?
I once heard a university professor sum up her view of the gun-control debate in the following manner: It is a balance of the rights of the citizens to bear arms against the rights of children to grow up without fear. She clearly felt that the second item weighed heavier on that scale. When I heard this, I wondered if she would agree to bring back the prohibition of alcohol to protect all of the children who live in real and present fear of their alcoholic parents on a daily basis. The number of children killed by violent or feckless parents -- their behavior magnified by alcohol abuse -- is many times greater than the number of children gunned down in freak school shootings. And their agony lasts much longer.
And so, a winemaker from Australia feels morally obligated to distance itself from a group that advocates Second Amendment rights, even while it sells a product that has the sole purpose of intoxicating people -- that is, filling their bodies with toxin... a toxin that destroys the liver, ruins lives, and tears families apart.
The bottom line here is simple: Plain reason shows that any attempt to ban firearms in the United States of America should rationally be preceded by a ban on alcohol. Alcohol is more destructive to society, communities, families, and individuals than firearms will ever be, and any attempt to list the social benefits it affords cannot be voiced with a straight face -- as such an explanation will never include anything beyond tongue-in-cheek claims about alcohol's ability to make ugly people attractive, stupid people smart, and annoying people tolerable. As for actual social benefits, to say that there are social benefits for alcohol but not for private gun ownership would be to convince oneself of an absurd lie. At the very least, my right to own a gun helps to protect me from others with guns, while my right to buy whiskey does not protect me at all from drunk drivers and snookered hooligans. And yet, despite the glaring contradiction, while American liberalism seeks to take away all citizens' firearms, it simultaneously ignores the alcohol blight and takes yet another step to advocate the legalization of marijuana -- because hey, "It's not like marijuana is bad or anything: its effect on human behavior is comparable to that of alcohol!"
Alcohol is as far more of an instrument of death and misery as guns, and the same arguments apply. Since alcohol is clearly so much more dangerous and harmful than firearms, here is the root of all reasoning for banning firearms and not alcohol boils down to this: "But I like alcohol -- and I hate guns!" There is no actual reason there whatsoever. It is a standpoint based purely on aesthetic sympathies.
The natural liberal response to talk of banning alcohol would be to bring up our previous endeavor to do just that during the 1920s. The result, they would say, was increased black market traffic and empowerment of organized crime. Liberals would point to this item of history as evidence of how it is impossible to truly control alcohol -- using the same approach to advocate legalization of marijuana. And yet, they fail to see how trying to ban firearms would do the exact same thing: to increase black market traffic and empower all crime -- not just organized crime.
Despite my strong talk, I do not advocate a ban on alcohol. Rather, I simply want people to think rationally about how their various political viewpoints may be contradictory. If one of two dangerous items must be banned, it would only make sense to ban that which is demonstrably more dangerous. If responsible adults should be trusted with a particular dangerous item, it would only make sense to also trust them with an item that is less dangerous -- especially when their right to own that less dangerous item is protected by the Constitution.
Unlike certain conservative and libertarian figures like Alex Jones and Glenn Beck, I do not believe that there is a single great conspiracy creeping over our nation with massive dark claws. I generally feel that idiocy is a better explanation than malice and plotting. However, when I see the end effect of this ludicrous contradiction in policy initiatives -- that is, a populace at once too poorly equipped to defend itself from tyranny and too drunk or high to care about liberty -- I can understand why some would believe in such things.