The “Neighboring States” Game

OASASinfostats02-02New York has a heroin problem.  A bad one.  In the county I live in, the heroin problem is so big and so prevalent that first responders are being trained on Narcan usage, and in some areas it’s as required to carry as anything else in a standard police, fire, or EMS kit.  The kit has saved dozens of lives.  On a regular basis, stories can be found in the local papers talking about how Narcan is a savior, and praising programs to get it in the hands of first responders.

This is a good thing.

Narcan would not be necessary if heroin wasn’t a growing problem.  In Rockland County, Narcan training is now something the average citizen can get at various locations throughout the area and people are encouraged to get the training because it could potentially save a life.

The interesting part of this all isn’t that local governments have finally figured something out that might help people rather than tax them or put them in cages, although that’s a nice side effect.  The interesting part is that heroin is illegal in New York State.  In spite of that illegality, usage is not only constant, but growing.  As the graphic above notes, admissions for treatment (which only counts people who are seeking treatment, not the overall number of people using) has spiked in the past decade in spite of its illegality.

The penalties for heroin possession are stiff, as are the penalties for its sale.  There is no legal market for heroin in the state.

Above are two maps side by side.  On the left, New York.  On the right?  States that border New York.  Do you know what the green states and the red states have in common?  In all of them, heroin is 100% unequivocally illegal.  In all of them, heroin is a growing problem.

The heroin is coming from somewhere, but nobody knows where.  And it’s coming into states that have harsh penalties in a country with harsh penalties and no one can seem to stop it.  Sounds like a real problem, doesn’t it?

In spite of the fact that the heroin is coming from somewhere, you never hear a politician talk about “heroin trafficking.”

Now compare that to guns.

New York has some of the strictest gun laws in the country, and New York City’s laws are even stricter, and yet day after day we hear about shootings in the city.  Strangely, New York City manages to be proud of being a very safe city (admittedly, it is) and at the same time, gun crime rarely raises an eyebrow.  Shootings don’t even make the front page of either of the two local papers any more.  They’re not, by any measure, a thing.

And yet when politicians do talk about gun laws in New York, they still talk about how they need to “enhance” them.  Or “strengthen” them.  Or “close” loopholes.  When you point out that there isn’t much more room to make things tougher, that’s when you get hit with the old common refrain.

“New York has strong gun laws, but surrounding states don’t, and they’re all coming from there.”

It’s a terrible argument, but gungrabbers will use it as if it trumps all other arguments.  In fact, just literally yesterday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo begged the federal government to help him keep guns out of New York using that same specious argument.

Rather than securing the country’s borders to keep Mexicans out, Gov. Cuomo on Tuesday called on the federal government to protect the state’s borders by keeping firearms from entering New York.

“I’m not worried about Mexicans coming over my border. I’m worried about assault weapons coming over my border,” Cuomo said during an appearance on WNYC radio’s “The Brian Lehrer Show.”

“If you want to protect borders, start by protecting the borders of states and respect their gun laws, which this federal government and the (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) have been all but wholly absent on.”

Cuomo said despite New York passing its own gun control law in 2013 in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, Conn., illegal weapons continue to flow from other states like Virginia and South Carolina.

“By definition this is an issue a state can’t do on its own,” the governor said. “That’s why the federal government has to act.

So what Cuomo is essentially arguing is that his pride and joy, the New York SAFE Act is not effective, and that without more laws, New York can’t be truly safe.

That argument, of course, is complete crap for many reasons.

Firstly, it’s established that the federal government cannot control any border anywhere ever.  Just ask anyone in any border town in Texas, California, Arizona or New Mexico.  People flout the border on a regular basis and, at best, it’s a symbolic border mostly patrolled on the honor system.

Secondly, trafficking guns is already a crime.  Buying a gun in any state and transporting it across another state’s border is a crime.  There are some exceptions, but few.  If I buy a gun in Virginia and bring it into New York, I’ve already violated the law (oddly, Virginia does not neighbor New York; which means I have to cross multiple states on my way in, nearly all of which prohibit the transport of guns in from out of state except in special circumstances).

Thirdly, buying a gun legally (which, by the way, most of these guns that are transported aren’t in the first place) with the intention of selling it in another state or in some other way giving it to someone else is a strawman sale.  That’s illegal.  Just ask Gabby Giffords’ activist husband how that works.  He caught a lot of crap after purchasing an AR-15 to try and sell to someone else.  Only after the furor over his actions did his story change, but the dealer put the squash on the sale within the waiting period (yep, the waiting period) because of Giffords’ activist views knowing the gun was being purchased to make a political point.

But let’s get to the heart of the matter.


If the argument that the gun problem in New York is due to the lax regulation of the states surrounding it, why is the heroin problem not discussed in the same manner?  I’d argue that the heroin problem, while growing, is more out of control than the gun problem, and yet heroin is not legal in any surrounding states and unless you’re living under a rock, you know that not all heroin in New York is locally made.  Transporting it in any way, locally or across state lines, is a crime.  There are federal, state, and local penalties for possession and for sale.  Heroin is highly regulated in the entire country.

And yet in New York, a state with the most draconian drug laws in the country, we have a heroin problem.

And in New York, a state with some of the most ridiculous gun laws in the country, we have a gun problem.

And in New York City, a city where a law-abiding citizen has essentially been law’ed out of owning a gun at all, there is still a gun crime problem.

What does this tell you?  Two things.

One: That both the drug war and the gungrabber movements simply do not work.

Two: Banning “things,” whatever they are, does nothing to stop them from getting into the hands of people and only turns average people into criminals.

In my next post, we’re going to talk about an interesting thought exercise that Adam Curry recently proposed on the No Agenda Podcast.  You won’t want to miss that.

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