Following the horrible school-shooting massacre in Parkland, Florida, the gun-control mob is out in full force. These well-meaning Americans are once again demanding prohibition from the top of their lungs. They’re mortified by the meaningless slaughter of 17, as we all are, and they are convinced that the answer is banning guns.
To add weight to their case, the kids that survived the shooting are organizing protests and speaking out in Tallahassee, begging President Trump and Congress to take action. They blame the government for not intervening sooner and, understandably, they are angry and scared.
I don’t blame the kids, nor the gun-control advocates. They are saddened, grieving and emotionally wounded. Some of them have recently buried children, an almost unfathomable act for any parent. They cry out for justice but will settle for reform. They face years of suffering and, for the parents and families of the slain, this experience will likely define the remainder of their lives. God bless these Parkland high school kids and their supporters. They deserve to be heard and it will help them heal.
The problem with the idea of gun control, or any form of prohibition, is that it doesn’t work. We have tried to legislate behavior and morality in this country since 1838, when the state of Massachusetts passed a temperance law banning the sale of spirits. It failed and was repealed two years later. The state of Maine tried the same thing in 1846, as did a number of other states. The laws failed to stop people from drinking, and they were all repealed.
Yet, somehow, by the late 1900s, we were still naïve enough to believe prohibition would work. After years of suffering the ill effects of alcohol on society, Congress passed the 18th Amendment, and the well-meaning, simple-minded majority cheered. After all, to stop people from drinking, all you have to do is make it illegal, right? From 1920 to 1933, alcohol was illegal and countless Americans were killed in the crossfire of the newly created black market. Yet people still drank, and speakeasys thrived in every major city. Even the White House had a still. By 1933, the failure of Prohibition, combined with the senseless violence it inspired, was repealed. Lesson learned, right?
In 1971, President Nixon launched the “War on Drugs” which continues to this day. The premise of the war is simple: Make drugs illegal and they will disappear. Just like magic. And it worked, right?
Almost 50 years into this prohibition, drugs are more popular than ever, the black market is a multi-billion-dollar money machine and millions of people have been slaughtered by killers, cartels and corrupt law enforcement. Our current attorney general, Jeff Sessions, recently announced he wants to intensify the drug war and even shut down legal marijuana dispensaries in states where weed is legal.
It’s been said that the definition of insanity is repeating the same action over and over and expecting a different result. Does this mean that gun control, or the proponents of prohibition, are insane? No, but it certainly implies that they are at best naïve and, at worst, delusional.
Prohibition, with booze, guns, drugs, prostitution, porn, and anything else that people want, will always fail. Almost 200 years of evidence supports this statement. Banning guns sounds like a good idea, but in fact it’s an idea born of overly simplistic, linear thinking. In other words, people believe that if you ban the guns the bad guys will disappear and so will the mentally ill and severely depressed. School shootings will stop, too, because the guns are all gone, right?
This all sounds nice, doesn’t it? And who wouldn’t want to end the violence that has become so pervasive in this country, especially when directed at children. The problem is that gun violence is a societal phenomenon that naïve, simple-minded linear thinking will not solve. Ban assault weapons and you instantly create a black market and make criminals of good citizens. Bad guys who want guns will be able to buy them on the street in every city in America, just as they do with drugs and prostitutes. It’s easier to purchase anything on the black market because the profits are so high. No licensing and no regulation. Just cash, and fast. Getting an AK-47, or anything else, will be easier than ever.
School shootings are not about easy access to guns, no more than the opiate crisis is about easy access to drugs. This violence is a reflection of a society that largely ignores the mentally ill and deeply depressed while it makes celebrities out of mass murderers and those who portray them in movies.
These lost souls are sick and starving for attention and they know that by killing innocent people, they will get it. Their names are splattered across the airwaves and their faces grace the headlines of every TV channel in the country. They have achieved the notoriety they so deeply craved. It gives them a sense of significance.
It’s not that our lawmakers don’t care; it’s that they’re facing an unprecedented societal phenomenon that requires a multi-faceted, nonlinear solution that will take time to formulate and implement. It’s time to stop blaming Washington and threatening prohibition, and start engaging in solution-based discourse about how to solve this horrific problem.
Steve Siebold is a psychological performance coach and the author of “Sex, Politics, Religion: How Delusional Thinking is Destroying America” and “Secrets Self-Made Millionaires Teach Their Kids.”