Death penalty for drug dealers when there is one for gun dealers

Throughout history religion and tyrannical dictators have experimented with various means of controlling human nature with varying degrees of failure. There are universal truths regarding the way humanity has behaved down through the ages which is why that behavior is attributed to “human nature,” and it is why even the most strident religion is incapable of reversing or retarding human behavior. There are just some actions, especially those borne of emotions, that are impossible to regulate no matter the deterrent or reward system to promote what society regards as acceptable behavior.

Although it is inherently evil for one group, or one individual, to attempt to control anyone, there is no doubt that civilized societies need some kind of deterrent or reward system to contain dangerous human behavior to protect people. Human traits like greed, religious passion, and unrestrained anger are the underpinning of all manner of “crimes against society” making punitive measures a necessary element of any cultural construct. As antiquity has shown, despite severe punishment for many bad behaviors, human nature can never be completely controlled or deterred. If that were the case there would be no crime and the entirety of humankind would serve the most severe religion under pain of “holygruesome methods of execution.

In another instance of the Trump administration enacting policies that are historical failures, the Reagan-era “just say no” drug policy is being value-added with a call to “just kill drug dealers.” The death penalty for dealing drugs is allegedly Trump and Sessions’ primary tool of choice to address the legal prescription drug (opioid) epidemic.

That “just kill them” plan typifies stupid and blood-lust, and it is likely a result of Trump’s adoration of Philippines’ murderous president Rodrigo Duterte. Duterte is notorious for his boasts of personally committing extra-judicial executions for suspected drug dealers. Those boasts excited and incited Trump to tell Duterte what a great job he’s doing by killing citizens he suspects of dealing or using drugs. Still, despite the thousands of executions, drug users and dealers are thriving in the Philippines.

It is not clear on what official grounds Sessions and Trump are basing their decision to execute drug dealers, but if it is as a deterrent, it  has shown to be a monumental failure around the globe and domestically. In some extremely harsh nations the death penalty has not stopped the use or trade of ‘illicit’ drugs, so expecting it to stop the use and trade of legal prescription drugs is folly. Let’s get one thing clear right now; the death penalty is not going to do anything to address a public health issue like the  “opioid epidemic;” the stated reason Sessions and Trump want the death penalty. For dog’s sake, many American states have the death penalty for homicide and execute convicts regularly, and yet those states still have homicides like states lacking capital punishment.

The threat of death is not going to change human nature whether it is a greedy off-the-books gun dealer selling legal battlefield weapons, a desperate addict, or greedy drug dealer selling legal prescription pain killers like opioids. There is another inconvenient truth that neither Sessions nor Trump comprehend; drug dealing in America is not a capital crime at the federal or state level. Of the 41 federal laws calling for the death penalty, only two have a direct connection to drugs and both require the commission of murder to earn the death penalty.

One is under 18 U.S. Code § 924 calling for the death penalty for “Murder committed by the use of a firearm during a crime of violence or a drug-trafficking crime.” And 18 U.S. Code § 36 includes capital punishment for “Murder committed during a drug-related drive-by shooting.” (author bold)

In both “drug-related” cases a murder has to have been committed in order to qualify for the death penalty. And that little fact is noteworthy because the Supreme Court has ruled that “the death penalty is unconstitutional for crimes against individuals in which no one is killed.” That opinion put to rest a 1994 “drug kingpin” idea calling for the death penalty for crime bosses connected to criminal enterprises dealing in large quantities of illicit drugs, even if no-one was killed.

Sessions announcing the death penalty for drug dealers as an means of dealing with what experts say is a bonafide public-health issue, besides not fixing the problem; “is proven unwise, costly, ineffective and often counterproductive.” Experts and half-sane human beings comprehend that it also does nothing to address the real problem plaguing America; the epidemic of legal prescription drug addiction. As the co-director of the Opioid Policy Research Collaborative at Brandeis University, Dr. Andrew Kolodny said:

We can’t execute our way out of this epidemic. The reality is, most people who are selling drugs are suffering from opioid addiction, and they sell drugs to support their own habit.”

Dr. Guohua Li is professor of epidemiology and anesthesiology at Columbia University and he concurred with Dr. Kolodny:

When I start hearing about the death penalty, it just seems to me we’re going in the wrong direction.

Criminal justice can play a complementary role in addressing the opioid crisis, but relying on criminal justice system to address public health problems has proven unwise, costly, ineffective and often counterproductive.”

A recent Pew Charitable Trust study released just two weeks ago supports both experts’ arguments; and it reveals that harsher penalties for drug dealers or addicts will not fix the problem. The study revealed that:

Harsher penal sanctions had no measurable impact on drug use, drug overdose deaths, and drug arrests. The data reinforce a large body of prior research that cast doubt on the theory that stiffer prison terms deter drug misuse, distribution, and other drug-law violations. The evidence strongly suggests that policymakers should pursue alternative strategies that research shows work better and cost less.”

If Sessions and Trump need to see some capital punishment to try addressing Americans dying unnecessarily, they should call for the death penalty for gun dealers. Particularly those “off-the-book” types who sell assault weapons that exist for one reason and one reason only; to assault and kill human beings.  AR15s and AK47s were not created to assault ducks, pheasant, rabbits, deer, baby seals, bear cubs or any other alleged game animal; they exist to assault and kill human beings. But no-one is suggesting the death penalty for gun dealers because they are selling as legal a product as any dealer or addict selling FDA-approved prescription drugs containing opioids. Opioids, by the way, that have been studied and developed to serve a useful medical purpose; relieving pain and suffering.

The idea of executing people over a public health issue like an epidemic is barbaric, but so is Trump and his Old Testament, mean-god acolyte Jeff Sessions. However, barbaric or not, it is a fairly good sign that there will be no legitimate policies enacted to address an epidemic the medical profession and big pharmaceutical companies are culpable of creating and perpetuating.

Remember, whether Sessions or Trump admit or like it or not, addiction is a human medical affliction that is not going to be deterred with the threat of death any more than capital punishment deters the greed driving “big” drug dealers; or the administration traitors adhering to a hostile foreign power undermining America’s democracy. Treason, by the way, is one of the 41 federal capital crimes that DOES NOT require an unwarranted death (murder) to impose the death penalty.

Trump was enamored with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s boasts that he personally “executed” people “suspected” of being involved with drugs and he wants to show Duterte that he too is a tough guy. Something Trump and Sessions may not be aware of is that there are 33 foreign nations with the death penalty for trafficking (smuggling) illicit drugs, but “very, very few” actually impose the penalty because it is ineffective. And it is noteworthy that each one of those 33 foreign nations all have one thing in common, even the very, very few that are actually killing drug dealers and users; they still have plenty of people selling, smuggling and using “illicit drugs.”

No matter how harsh laws are, they will never alter human nature and the people selling legal prescription drugs to sate their greed or an addiction are behaving like humans. Threatening to kill the people selling drugs is not going to solve “a medical condition or an addiction epidemic,” it just won’t now or ever.

It is now more apparent than ever that Trump or Sessions have no will or intent to solve a legitimate public health issue, but if they really want to kill purveyors of death and destruction, they can call for the death penalty for gun dealers.

God Is Not A Surrogate For Sane Gun Measures

The Florida legislature did a fine job distinguishing itself as a dispassionate group of cretins this week by refusing to debate a ban on the kind of weapon used in the Valentine’s Day Massacre about a week ago. Florida Republicans failed to give the state’s students a modicum of consideration concerning their safety, but they succeeded in declaring that pornography is a public health risk to Floridians. That action alone should inform exactly what the Florida legislature’s priorities are regarding public safety. To further distinguish itself as out of touch with reality, the legislature’s lower chamber came through for the terrified massacre survivors with an action that will have no effect on public safety or school gun violence – invoking god.

In an overwhelming majority vote, the Florida house passed legislation putting god in all Florida schools because of the recent gun massacre and legislative inaction on school safety.  The final vote count was 97-10 and the numbers elicited a standing ovation from proud members of the Florida House.

The bill, H.B. 839, requires all public schools in the state to post a sign, “In God We Trust, in a conspicuous place” to bring a little light into the Sunshine state’s public schools and administration buildings. The bill’s sponsor, Representative Kimberly Daniels, is a Jacksonville Democrat who operates her own global Christian ministry and said the state’s public schools needed some god signs in light of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High gun massacre last week, and the legislature’s inaction on gun safety.

No doubt the massacre survivors will feel comforted that their representatives couldn’t be bothered to give them some consideration in restricting assault weapons, but they could damn sure declare that porn is dangerous and then vote to force a stupid god sign on the schools. Ms. Daniels explained why Florida desperately needed god signs in every school after a mass shooting. She said:

He [apparently god] is not a Republican or a Democrat. He is not black or white. He is the light, and our schools need light in them like never before.”

Daniels spoke directly to the school shooting and admitted that it’s no secret that the state has gun issues that must be addressed. She voted to move the assault weapon ban to the House floor for debate, but she was on the losing side – so she naturally thought the alternative is a god sign. The idea of substituting a “god sign” for action on assault weapons cannot be encouraging for Florida students reaching out to their representatives for help in making schools safe; particularly when those politicians are feigning regard for the students’ “hearts” and the public’s health threat from pornography. Daniels explained what is really important to aid the students.

The real thing that needs to be addressed are issues of the heart. We cannot put god in a closet when the issues we face are bigger than us.”

Ms. Daniels also talked about video games that train children to become virtual assassins, and that things are getting so bad that maybe people will finally “come to realize that problems are much bigger than politics.”

So apparently when the only Americans capable of putting the brakes on the NRA gun proliferation crusade fail to protect the population, because that problem is “bigger than politics,” they appeal to god. It sounds suspiciously like every insipid Republican calling for “thoughts and prayers” after every mass shooting, and it is exactly like every stinking religious right sycophant blaming school violence on the lack of god, bible and prayer in public schools.

This god business as a prophylactic against gun violence is just a monumental abomination, particularly so coming from a Democrat. For dog’s sake, putting up god signs is not going to stop angry white people from using firearms to kill innocents anyplace, much less in public schools. Perhaps Ms. Daniels, like no small number of evangelical fanatics, fails to recall that there were god signs, god books (bibles), god images (crosses), and all manner of “heavenly” icons in plain sight in the two Christian churches ravaged by gun violence. And it is beyond refute that those gun victims put all their trust in their god while they were in their god’s alleged houses; and yet they were still viciously massacred.

One of the 10 representatives to vote against an unconstitutional measure actually condemned the bill for exactly the right legal reason; it violates the 1st Amendment’s Establishment and Separation Clauses.  Representative Carlos G. Smith said on Twitter what should have informed every member of the Florida House’s vote on the god sign bill.

Let’s keep a clear separation between church + state. Forcing our public schools to post “In God We Trust” in a conspicuous place is inappropriate. I don’t care if it was a Democrat who sponsored the bill. I vote based on core values, not party lines.”

Mr. Smith is right, of course, about the unconstitutionality of legislating god in public places, especially in schools. But he would have been “more right” if he had also condemned the god signage as surrogate for action on assault weapons, which is what this ‘in god we trust’ business is really all about. It is also another dangerous step in forcing religion on the public by legislative fiat, and it is despicable for using the gun massacre as cover for an unconstitutional action advancing theocracy.

The survivors of the school massacre have an abundance of reasons to be incensed at their Florida representatives. It was insulting enough that the legislature refused to consider debating a ban on the kind of weapon used in the shooting to stop a clear and present public health risk, while officially declaring that pornography is a real serious health threat to Florida residents. But overwhelmingly voting to force schools to post god signs “to address issues that are bigger than politics” is beyond insulting. It is a personal affront to the survivors and the victims’ families; many who already trusted in a god while an angry man with an assault weapon slaughtered their friends and teachers.

Image: Patheos