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Carrie Nation

By Edward Jaffe

When the Progressive Era’s Anti-Saloon League pushed forth their prohibitionist agenda, the cry then — as today — was: something MUST be done! A problem was identified. The “problem” of (male) alcoholism in the post-WWI period was many orders of magnitude greater than any present day gun “problem” that could be described. The scope of drinking-related income diverted to the saloons, wife-beating, child neglect etc., would surely dwarf any criminal issue of today. Societies falling for a puerile, simple answer is nothing new. It’s a story almost as sad and long as history itself. Every dictator and demagogue, every war (present day included) and perhaps every bad policy we can think of — occurs when the public gets the idea that a simple answer is an answer . . .

The success of the Anti-Saloon League (and other similar efforts by orgs like the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and Carry Nation) and various one-time “fringe” groups is mind boggling — and should stand as a reminder of what gun prohibitionists could accomplish.

Not only did the Anti-Saloon League overwhelm the wealth and power of the liquor industry, but the federal government received a substantial amount of its tax revenues [33% pre-income-tax] from liquor sales. Also, many people who drank supported prohibition as a way to attack the perceived drinking issues of other people or classes. Catholics in the north and blacks in the south were targets, with the KKK being a strong supporter of prohibition.

In the run-up to the passage of the Volstead Act, the Anti-Saloon League never mentioned side-effects such as criminal penalties, unforeseen consequences, poisonings, black markets or organized crime that would emerge as a direct consequence of their advocacy. Far from explaining that anyt possible downside could be expected, there were nothing but utopian promises if only demon rum could be excised from society. This is a direct parallel to the modern Gun Prohibitionist movement.

Not only does the modern Gun Prohibitionist movement distance itself from obvious future failures, but also avoids the very mention of draconian (medieval, really) criminal penalties for laws that have just passed which they championed. Prohibition “only” prohibited the manufacturing, sale, transport, import, export or distribution of intoxicating beverages. Drinking itself was never actually prohibited (at the Federal level). Unlike the latter-day War On Drugs and the evolving War On Guns, the target was those involved in commerce, not ordinary citizen end-users.

The utopian promises of the Gun Control Movement are no more realistic than the promises of Rev. Billy Sunday speaking at the moment when the 18th Amendment took effect: “The reign of tears is over. The slums will soon be a memory. We will turn our prisons into factories and our jails into storehouses and corn-cribs. Men will walk upright now, women will smile, and the children will laugh. Hell will be forever for rent.”

The modern equivalents to the Anti-Saloon League are the “Brady Era” groups which sought to ban (yes ban) handgun ownership in the United States. Add to those groups the ever-growing list of vaguely focused, “Sandy Hook Era” organizations that cropped up whose emphasis is on pictures and videos, not discussion, debate or specifics. While claiming to advocate only “common sense” reform of gun laws, their proposals are simply cover designed to hide their support for draconian treatment of gun owners and mass-criminalization.

These overtly anti-intellectual groups will rarely put forth concrete, on-the-record, legally detailed proposals, even though they are in the “let’s change the gun laws business.” Even the instant-law template (just add tragedy) creators the Law Center To Prevent Gun Violence (LCPGV) won’t mention penalties or consequences for breaking the laws they want to see enacted, even though they are lawyers and know very well where this is all going.

As an example, the LCPGV proposes taking the NJ approach, classifying BB guns and airguns identically to firearms. They’re well aware that making a BB gun legally identical to a GLOCK will mean years in prison for thousands of people. But they don’t want you to know that — and they don’t care. So far as every one of these groups is concerned, their slogan should really be, the ends justify the means.

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  1. The irony is, the social pressure from the anti-drinking movement alone was more effective at curbing alcoholism than the feel-good legislature they passed… The anti-gun groups would do much better at preventing “gun violence” if they started actively putting pressure on the “thug life” community! Unfortunately, they are “tolerant” of the wrong groups, and intolerant of the right ones. No matter what tool is used, violence is a human problem, and human problems cannot be solved without changing the human outlook on an issue…

    • The gun control groups are 98% for making stuff illegal and 2% for promoting actual safety.

      I have seen much more pro-safety stuff from pro-gun and moderate groups.

      • No Jersey is F%&King retarded in its laws yes …but , FYI , a bb gun purchased out of state is OK to own , on private property, in NJ. FWIW. Go Get EM !!! Red Ryders.

      • What is the largest and most active gun safety organization in the world? The NRA. How many millions have they trained in safe gun handling? How many thousands of instructors have they certified, who go into their communities and make them safer?

        The Orwellian cooption of “gun safety” as a euphemism for gun control really makes my blood pressure spike.

    • Indeed, Chase.

      As Coolidge said: “Real reform does not begin with a law, it ends with a law. The attempt to dragoon the body when the need is to convince the soul will end only in revolt…”

    • The dentists may want to have a word with you…They have Ex-wifes to pay alimony, *talented* dental assistants to pay for their after-hours work, bartenders to support…

    • It wasn’t about the booze. It was about the progressive agenda. The nutty old bats were the pawns (today see Shannon, Gabby/idiot husband, Newtown families). Never ends with the marxists.

      • We should be glad we only have to deal with pantywaisted billionaires and their preening mom squad. Carrie Nation was a bona fide psycho.

        The term “hatchet job” came about because that’s what her self-appointed job was — to invade businesses that sold liquor and destroy every bottle they had. Weapons in both hands: the Bible in one hand, and a hatchet in the other. There are literally dozens of people who would have been within their rights to shoot her the second she stepped through the front door (and might have done humanity a service), yet nobody did. Like W.B. Yeats said, the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.

  2. It’s about time someone linked prohibition to the anti-gun movement. I’ve seen a link for quite a while but not to this depth. Great article! Now we need to start fighting it like the anti-prohibition movement and not make the same missteps before our guns are made illegal.

  3. Up here in Canada, we just had nine people shot dead in Edmonton, Alberta. The perp (offed himself) used a handgun stolen in 2006 from a neighboring province. The next week, eight people were shot at a party in Calgary (one died). Immediately following, there was a retaliation where another man was shot dead. Again, handguns- and what’s more, handguns that were not discharged at a legal range with the appropriate paperwork needed to transport them (unless back alleys in Rosedale are suddenly legal ranges). And yet, Canada has quite strict licensing and regulation regarding handguns- and the antigunners want more, they want outright bans.

    It’s always with a mixture of frustration and amusement when I read US anti gunners talking about “military style weapons” and then talking about how it’s okay to have pistols for self defense. They say that they won’t take your hunting guns away, or your ability to protect your home. Well, up here in Canada we had the ability to buy pistols with the reason of protection of home or workplace, until that was taken away (now the only legal reason is target shooting- you can use them for defense, but expect a trial that you’ll win but pay out the nose to do so). That’s why I’m posting- to remind you that they never stop, they always have one more step, they always have one more restriction.

    As a reader, you already know this, but sometimes hearing a reminder can help strengthen resolve to push back- because you have to push back at all times if you want to hold the ground you’ve already taken.

    • Along the same line…when do we hold government accountable for the legislation (denial of public lawful self-protection) causing assaults murders, rape, and robbery?

  4. The war on drugs may have cost even more…but we know that. And I live in Illinois so I know about overreach…

    • Government spending in just North America on the misnamed “War on Drugs” has topped a trillion dollars since Nixon used racist motivations to light it off to show how tough he was on crime (not to mention on the Constitution). The violence it has spawned has cost far more than that, as has the costs in the legal system. There is no way to measure the cost in lives taken and ruined, or the economic cost in lost talent and productivity.

      A “War on Guns” would almost certainly tally up damages triple that, likely far more.

      • Indeed it would. Think about it. How often is it they capture someone who fought back? Usually only distributors/dealers/makers who have a lot of product. With a war on guns, even people being arrested for possession are likely to fight back. It’d be a bloodbath for both sides, until eventually one side caved or was eliminated.

  5. Yes indeedy, gun control is brought to you by the same subculture that brought you such triumphs of logic and reason as the salem witch trials, alcohol prohibition, drug prohibition (in all its incarnations going back to the 19th century) the Great Society, etc. A ten year voting moratorium on residents of the larger cities north and east of Richmond, VA would restore a lot of sanity to the federal government.

    • Ten years mormoratorium? Why not just restore the constitution to say: only land owners can vote and Senate voting is indirect again.

  6. Much like with prohibition, the powers in charge of the gun control movement fail to understand one key thing: As long as there is significant demand for something, supply will exist, regardless of laws. Prohibition failed they outlawed something that was in extremely high demand. The same is true with the complete and utter failure that is the war on drugs. And even if private ownership of all firearms was magically banned tomorrow, it wouldn’t change a damn thing, because there would still be massive demand for them.

    If a faction wants to be able to effectively ban something that is in high demand, they need to target the culture, so that the item in question becomes socially unacceptable. Following that, the laws only formalize what has already taken place and add some penalties for the few who are not swayed by societal pressure.

    Thankfully for us, the antis seem to fundamentally fail to understand that (which isn’t surprising, given their failure to understand that laws don’t stop criminals), and even if they didn’t, the (rapidly growing) gun culture of the United States is too strong to cave to such petty emotional appeals (especially given that gun owners see through them so easily). I’ve seen anti gunners converted to pro gunners and gun owners, but I’ve NEVER seen the opposite. Once someone has seen the light on the issue of guns, they simply don’t go back.

    In other words, we can undo the damage they have done to our cause, but they can’t undo the damage we do to their cause. Whenever we falter in our constant fight for out freedoms, we only need to remember that. Our victories are permanent, and theirs are not.

    • Many politicians do understand–but they come from liberal jurisdictions that will vote for them if they appear to “do something” to “stop gun violence” and where anti-gun vote substantially outweighs the pro-gun vote. the one thing politicians understand is votes.

    • “…they need to target the culture, so that the item in question becomes socially unacceptable.”

      “Thankfully for us, the antis seem to fundamentally fail to understand that ”

      Unfortunately for us it is the sheep that fail to understand, the handful of people really driving their agenda fully understand it. Zero Tolerance, carefully edited “history”, watered down “civics” education, laws against “allowing” children to be taught to safely handle guns (real gun safety), all are attempts to promote ignorance, unreasoning fear and encourage “accidents” for their propaganda and shock value.

  7. While it is, relatively speaking, easy to change a law or create new legislation it is extremely difficult to change the way change our society works and acts.

    When you slap laws on top of society and tell it what to do without trying to change society itself you aren’t attacking the problems at the roots but rather at the top.

  8. The Prohibition movement is a very interesting period of US history to study in detail. The modern “MDA” group has many echoes of the Prohibition era – a bunch of busybody broads hectoring and lecturing people how the busybodies have morality and such on their side, and if you don’t get in line with the agenda, you’re a bad person.

    Somewhere out there in the interwebs, there’s a picture of a bunch of pushy anti-booze women with a caption “Lips that touch liquor shall never touch ours!”

    Here ’tis:

    Well, to look at the women in this picture, I don’t know what they were worried about. From the expressions on their faces, I think I’d rather shove a badger down my drawers than try to steal a smooch from any of them.

  9. As others have mentioned, prohibition laws suck. They don’t work, they create an opportunity for criminal gangs to thrive (revenue stream from supplying prohibited items), they turn non-violent folks into criminals, they breed distrust of the police, they provide incentives for both corruption and militarization of the law enforcement … they’re just all-around bad.

    Attacking the actual problems does not involve prohibition laws. The thug culture needs to be attacked. It is a culture for which it is perfectly acceptable to settle many (all?) disputes with the initiation of violence. It is what needs to be eliminated (or at least reduced as much as possible).

    However, the anti-gun folks themselves PROMOTE the initiation of violence when they promote prohibition laws. The government enforces laws by whatever means necessary, up to and including violence (via law enforcement / prison / etc.). The anti’s use the government as a proxy to commit violence against others who have not harmed anyone when they restrict and/or prohibit the use/sale/possession of firearms & firearm-related items.

    Other things that the anti’s could do to actually solve gun-related problems would be to provide more help for those with depression (who are suicidal) and to support educating gun owners so that there are fewer accidents (not that there are a lot, relatively speaking, but there are still too many). But instead, they promote government violence against peaceful gun owners. They call us thugs, but they themselves are the thugs.

    Prohibition was wrong for alcohol, it is wrong for drugs, and it is wrong for firearms.

  10. good article, very compelling. but i think the prohibition is one of the reasons why people eventually realize that just banning things isn’t going to work. and it seems like the polls are starting to reflect this thinking as well.

  11. Reading about how Prohibition came about, it became evident to me that the reason why it (Eight Amendment) passed in the first place, not just because of the efforts of the temperance movement, but because everyone was convinced it wouldn’t effect them personally. Even some beer companies supported it initially, thinking it would only target hard liquor and make the market safe for them. The Volstead Act was supposed to be a compromise in a sense, to allow these same special interests to carve out exemptions for their own use and sales of alcohol. However, it turned out to be far more restrictive than originally pushed. It was watered down several times over the years to allow for individual manufacture and consumption of alcohol, although sales were still prohibited.

    Another thing too was that it marked the start of amending the Constitution to, in effect, restricting individual rights instead of limiting the Federal Government. The temperance movement was adamant about passing an Amendment to the Constitution for Prohibition simply because there had been no precedents at the time that got rid of an Amendment.

    Interestingly enough, Prohibition lasted for about thirteen years. Despite the perceived unpopularity, lack of convictions due to widespread Jury nullification and rise of organized crime, enough people were convinced for a time it was the “right thing to do”. Drinking related illnesses, deaths and spousal abuse reportedly did go down during those years. However, as the years rolled by, more and more people began to wonder if it was truly worth the time, effort and money to clamp down on an activity that most people chose to ignore anyways.

  12. An excellent article. Connecting prohibition and guns is actually quite logical. Don’t forget that it was prohibition that is ultimately responsible for much of the “gun violence” that the anti-gun crowd likes to so often bemoan. Prohibition lead to the rise in organized crime and gangs. It was their use of guns that led to the NFA of 1934. It was prohibition that led to the rise of the ATF as a anything more than a revenue collection section of the IRS. It’s not hard to see the subsequent connection to the GCA of 1968.

    Prohibition has always been tightly connected to the gun control movement.


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