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The Stupidity Of Prohibition


The 18th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States outlawed the sale, possession, transportation, and importation of “intoxicating liquors” into the country.

Section 1. After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all the territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.

Section 2 authorized the several states and federal government to enforce the Amendment by appropriate legislation.

The US Congress passed the National Prohibition Act, which was promptly vetoed by President Woodrow Wilson.

On October 27, 1919, the House, followed by the Senate on October 28th, overrode the veto and the act became law.

The law prohibited all of the things enumerated in the 18th Amendment and went into effect on January 17, 1920. Within a few hours, Chicago reported the first Volstead Act crime.

It just got worse from there until the 18th Amendment was repealed by the 21st Amendment in 1933. It was too late by then, the damage (and carnage) having been done. What were a group of individual criminal gangs in various parts of the country became a nationwide network of crime syndicates fueled by the vast amounts of money earned by making or smuggling alcoholic beverages into the US, distributing, and selling them to a thirsty public.

Much like the drug money fueled gangs of today, the gangs back then supplied what some people wanted. They were also ruthless in eliminating competition and the efforts by law enforcement to enforce the law. Even when people were caught and arrested, they were often acquitted at trial. Juries generally didn’t like the idea of sending people to prison for violating an unpopular law.

I point this out not to discuss legalizing marijuana and other drugs. That’s a different debate for another time. The point is that prohibition of a legal object that people like never works. Ever. Enterprising criminals will find ways to defeat or subvert the laws, as well as some of the people who are tasked with enforcing those laws.

Which brings me to this article,

First State Ban On Bump Stocks Takes Effect After Las Vegas Massacre

A Massachusetts law banning possession of bump stocks and other accessories that increase a gun’s rate of fire went into effect on Thursday, making the state the first to enact such legislation in the wake of last year’s deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas.

Bump stocks allow semi-automatic rifles to simulate automatic fire. The accessory replaces a standard rifle stock ― the piece that rests against the shoulder ― and harnesses a weapon’s recoil to slide the gun rapidly back and forth onto the shooter’s trigger finger, firing each time.

It’s ironic that Massachusetts was the site of the first shots fired in the Revolutionary War. That battle, actually a series of battles, were fought against British efforts to confiscate firearms, ammunition, and powder from the Colonials. Not to mention that there is only the once instance of use of a bump stock in a crime. But, politicians have to protect their phoney baloney jobs and give the Governor a Harumph.

Although popular models once retailed for under $200, the possibility of a federal ban sent demand skyrocketing, leading bump stocks to sell for as much as $1,500.

As always, people will panic and pay exorbitant amounts for devices of dubious utility if they fear those devices are going to be banned.

Not only banned, but confiscated and destroyed without compensation from the state.

“Some of what I’ll call the extremist gun groups out there are calling this confiscation or calling it a taking without compensation, but if they really believe this, there’s a court system that is ready, willing and able to hear this challenge,” he said.

“He” being a state legislator. The people believe it because it’s true. The letters sent out to licensed gun owners make it clear that the bump stocks must be turned over to either local or state law enforcement officers to be destroyed. Without any of the now former owners being paid for the loss of their property. Which was perfectly legal to buy when they bought it.

That aside, if someone who owns a bump stock wants to attach it to a rifle and use it to commit an attack on people, this law isn’t going to stop them from doing. People who are going to commit crimes don’t care at all about, uh, committing crimes.

Just like any other prohibition, this one sounds good, but is difficult or impossible to enforce, won’t do anything to deter crime, and will waste law enforcement resources. All it does, and this is likely it’s real purpose, is make stupid legislators look like they are “doing something”, so that they can once again, protect their phoney baloney jobs.

In the end, nothing much will change. Other than a number of otherwise law abiding citizens will either lose property without compensation or become instant felons over a piece of plastic.


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After a long career as a field EMS provider, I'm now doing all that back office stuff I used to laugh at. Life is full of ironies, isn't it? I still live in the Northeast corner of the United States, although I hope to change that to another part of the country more in tune with my values and beliefs. I still write about EMS, but I'm adding more and more non EMS subject matter. Thanks for visiting.