Drug Violence Or Prohibition Violence?

Interesting story in the news this morning:

It’s a drug deal that turned into a robbery that turned into a homicide.

That’s the way Shreveport police Detective Robert Gordon describes an exchange of gunfire about 5:35 p.m. Thursday that left one man dead and another in the City Jail.

Adrian Cook, 21, of the 7200 block of Bernstein Avenue, is charged with one count of second-degree murder in connection with the slaying of Deroderick Randel, 24, of Shreveport.

The two arranged to meet in Cook’s upstairs apartment at Kings Manor I for Randel to buy drugs, Gordon said. Randel pulled out revolver and tried to rob Cook, who fired several shots from a semiautomatic handgun, Detective Rod Demery said.

A couple of things here.

One, pretend the subject of the sale was, oh, say, an autographed picture of Michael Jackson. In that case, Randel entered Cook’s apartment, pulled a gun on him and then tried to rob him. In his own house, facing a weapon, being threatened, Cook would have had every right to shoot to kill. This would be an obvious case of self-defense. Cook would never have been arrested, never mind charged.

As it is, though, he’s facing second degree murder charges for defending himself in his own home. Why? Because the subject of the sale was not an autograph but narcotics and as one of the detectives said in the story: “In Louisiana, if you’re in a narcotics transaction, you can’t claim self-defense.”

Does that make sense? I can’t see any legal reason for the difference. Every material fact in the first situation remained true in the second. The natural human instinct would be to defend your home. Ain’t that what the NRA has been telling us for years? I’m not sure I see the policy justification, either. Maybe the policy’s goal is to prevent the use of weapons by drug dealers by letting them know they can be penalized even for defending themselves.

And that brings me to my second point. You can thank prohibition for this whole situation. Thugs robbing drug dealers is not an unusual occurrence. The idea is “Hey, what’s the guy gonna do, go to the cops?” Add to that the further incentive of knowing – in Louisiana at least – that the dealer can’t even legally defend himself, and you have what looks like a very easy target. Hence, the robbery. Of course, if the dealer had a legal means to sell the drugs, those incentives to violence would be greatly reduced. There’d be no more reason to rob a drug dealer than any other business.

People will always use drugs. Other people will always sell drugs to meet that demand. We can either provide legal and non-violent means for those transactions, or we can read this and similar stories every day for however long prohibition lasts.

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One Comment on “Drug Violence Or Prohibition Violence?”

  1. Jim Says:

    We were engaged in the ‘war on drugs’ even before Richard Nixon coined the term. Hasn’t worked out too well. President Obama says we won’t use that terminology anymore, and that he favors treatment over incarceration. The problem with that is you can’t force people to get treatment for a behavior they don’t want to change. Also, I havent’ seen Obama cutting funding for the DEA.
    Of course the legalization of marijuana would make a lot of sense, but both of the political parties have far too much vested in criminalization.

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