Decriminalize Drug Possession? Okay; How About Guns?

By Matt Rooney | The Save Jersey Blog

The political culture has turned decidedly in favor of drug decriminalization in recent years, Save Jerseyans, as evidenced by the odd-couple ideological alliance between libertarian-ish Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) and arch-liberal Senator Cory Booker (D-Twitter).

A primary thrust of the push? Decriminalizing possession:

Is that true? Yes… and no.

In 2013, the CDC reported 33,363 gun deaths, but many of these are suicides.

There were 43,982 drug overdose deaths in America that same year, a statistic which does not encompass (1) violent crimes committed by someone who was high and (2) crimes related, directly or indirectly, to the drug trade (e.g. kidnapping, theft, immigration violations).

Okay, okay, kids aren’t overdosing on pot. Fair enough. And I’m not a doctor, so I won’t wade into the “gateway drug” debate here.

Still, as a general matter, we have to honestly say that drugs kill more Americans than firearms on an annual basis.

We can also admit (I hope) that over-criminalization of gun possession is hurting plenty of folks, too, just the same as over-criminalization of drug possession is making felons out of relatively harmless teenage pot heads and casual users alike.

MinutemanThe evidence is all around us.

Save Jersey has extensively covered the plights of Shaneen Allen, Steffon Josey-Davis and, most recently, Gordon Van Gilder. All three individuals were law-abiding citizens but-for run-ins with the recklessly over-broad and unconstitutional Graves Act. Now the first is in PTI, the second is a felon and the third is facing serious incarceration. Call me crazy, but I believe mandatory jail time is absurd; deprivations of liberty by incarceration should only come into play when public safety is at risk as indicated by the seriousness and context of the crime and/or rehabilitation, restitution, fines, or other less-onerous penalties won’t remediate the offending party’s behavior. Does anyone sincerely believe, for example, that Mr. Van Gilder’s 18th century pistol was a threat to public safety? Warranting up to 20 years in prison?

Particularly when the real bad guys are still having no problem trafficking their guns?

Let’s reform our state’s gun statutes with the same zeal that we’re reexamining drug laws. I fully recognize that open or concealed carry are long-shots with Democrats in firm control of the legislature. What should be universally considered reasonable? Repealing the Graves Act and allowing judges to decide, on a case-by-case basis, whether illegal possession of a firearm warrants jail time. Waiving a rifle around one’s head in a bank while making threatening comments to a clerk? Clearly distinguishable from a retired teacher transporting an antique!

Some states already punish certain illegal possession crimes as misdemeanors. It’s worth considering.


Matt Rooney
About Matt Rooney 7942 Articles
MATT ROONEY is's founder and editor-in-chief, a practicing New Jersey attorney, and the host of 'The Matt Rooney Show' on 1210 WPHT every Sunday evening from 7-10PM EST.

1 Comment

  1. Obama says that “No religion is responsible for terrorism. People are responsible for violence and terrorism.”
    Couldn’t that same statement be used as an analogous for guns?

    If so, then guns aren’t the problem it is the people using them.

    In Mr. Van Gilder’s case, the gun would have had to been taken out of the glove compartment, unwrapped and then to load it he would have had to:

    1.Half-cock the hammer.
    2.Pour a measure of gunpowder down the barrel.
    3.Wrap a lead ball (the bullet) in a small piece of cloth or paper and ram it down the barrel on top of the gunpowder. The bullet/cloth combination will have a nice, tight fit.
    4.Place a small amount of gunpowder in the flintlock’s pan.
    5.Snap the frizzen in place over the pan.
    6.Fully cock the hammer.
    7.Pull the trigger to fire the gun.

    Yes a real danger . . . no one would ever notice a flintlock being loaded during a traffic stop. Especially when told there is an empty one wrapped up in the glove compartment.

    It’s a frizzen travesty of justice.

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