Bans on marijuana, weapons outdated, ineffective methods of law enforcementBy TJ Parks | 02/09/2015 10:34pm
The arguments against federal bans on assault weapons and the legalization of marijuana are strikingly similar. Both arguments claim that the banning of these items will not be as effective as those favoring the bans hope, in part because the bans will not prevent them from being accessed by criminals. Both arguments also state that the items being banned are less likely to be involved in fatalities than their legal counterparts, alcohol and handguns.
Despite similarities, however, the arguments are supported by two different sides. Democrats support the legalization of marijuana while calling for bans on assault weapons. Seventy percent of Democrats support bans on assault weapons, according to NBC, and 59 percent favor marijuana legalization, according to Pew Research Center. Meanwhile, Republicans argue against assault weapon bans and favor keeping marijuana illegal. Sixty percent of Republicans said marijuana should be illegal, according to Pew Research Center, but only 44 percent of Republicans said the same about assault weapons, NBC reports. Regardless of partisan disputes, though, both arguments for legalization of these items are backed by strong statistics.
First, neither marijuana nor assault weapons have caused much damage in comparison to the enormous amount of destruction caused by handguns and alcohol. According to USA Today, a Columbia University study of 24,000 driving fatalities revealed that 12 percent of the driving fatalities in 2010 were influenced by marijuana. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 10,228, or 31 percent, of the driving fatalities in 2010, were alcohol related. Furthermore, according to The Washington Post, the number of highway fatalities in Colorado has decreased since the legalization of marijuana.
Meanwhile, banning assault weapons would also do little to hinder homicides. The AR-15 and other assault rifles that hold a negative reputation do little to add to the homicide count. Of the 8,874 gun-related homicides in 2010, 6,115 were caused by handguns, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The legalization of marijuana and assault rifles could be good for the economy. From January 2014 to the end of June the same year, Colorado received $18.9 million in state taxes, according to Stateline. The Seattle Times reported in 2013 that Colorado’s marijuana industry was worth $200 million. As the industry has flourished it has created jobs through the 160 businesses licensed to sell the substance, according to CNN.
The firearm industry also supplies Americans with jobs. Colt, which makes the AR-15, has its headquarters and factory in Connecticut. Prohibition of assault weapons and marijuana would take money away from these legitimate companies and divert it to the hands of black-market criminals.
Finally, although the banning of marijuana and assault weapons may decrease the number of deaths in the country, there are some areas without the laws banning them that function better than the areas with bans. New Hampshire and Vermont, for example, are rated by the Law Center to prevent Gun Violence as D- and F respectively on their gun laws. Both states also allow the ownership of assault weapons. However, both states have fewer homicides per 100,000 people than Connecticut and New Jersey, which prohibit the ownership of assault weapons and are both rated A- by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. According to the FBI, New Hampshire and Vermont had 1.7 and 1.6 homicides respectively per 100,000 people in 2013, while Connecticut and New Jersey had 2.4 and 4.5 homicides respectively per 100,000 people.
Although decreasing gun violence and encouraging responsibility in marijuana use should be priorities in our country, we are attempting to tackle the problems in the wrong way. Banning assault rifles and marijuana is ineffective. Furthermore, lack of understanding and cooperation between Democrats and Republicans makes effective solutions difficult to institute. Both sides seem to want a complete ban of one item and the complete legalization of the other. It seems illogical that either side would support the accessibility to one item and desire to ban the other, especially when both arguments have the statistics to back up their case.
TJ Parks is a freshman majoring in anthropology, history and journalism. His column runs biweekly.