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Reader Phil in LA writes:

As I think about “gun control,” which we all know is a euphemism for outright firearm bans, I’m reminded of the last time the US Government attempted prohibition, and the unintended consequences of that action. I’m also reminded of the old saying “those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Prohibition on alcoholic beverages began with ratification of the 18th amendment to the constitution in 1920. The 18th amendment was repealed by ratification of the 21st amendment, thus ending Prohibition in 1933 . . .

Interestingly enough, many other nations passed and ultimately repealed similar bans during the same time period. Of course the demand for alcohol remained. The unintended consequence was the growth of organized crime, which gained a revenue stream due to the illegal nature of the product: alcohol.

After alcohol, a similar ban was enforced on marijuana and other drugs. Again, demand remained, organized crime had a product to sell and business was good.

Over the past few decades we’ve felt a real push for the aforementioned “gun control.” It seems that by looking at analogies to previous and present prohibitions, we know that “gun control” or outright bans would indeed lower the number of firearms in circulation. But the demand would still be there and organized crime would step in for yet another revenue stream.

In other words, crime would thrive due to a monopoly on firearms. Just as the “War on Drugs” has made violent drug lords into billionaires, a “War on Guns” would net the same result.

Gun crime might decrease in the US with passage of such prohibitive gun laws, but overall crime would certainly increase. And all civilian firearms sales would fund organized crime.

As a side note: the USA is exceptional, not by birth, but by design. Sovereignty of the individual brings out the best work. But the US is still attached to the international community and fads and fashions inevitably cross the pond. We read about gun bans in other countries, and are mocked as a nation (or voting block) for defending the freedoms of the individual.

But note that prohibition was also an international fad: a fad that within a decade also went out of style.

I submit that “gun control” is another international fad that will fade away. Instead of following the crowd, I hope that we as a nation continue to lead by remaining steadfast in our resolve to defend the 2nd amendment, while waiting for the day the international community comes to their senses.

Plus, think of how silly the Constitution would look with repeats of the 18th and 21st amendments.

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  1. Prohibition ended just before I was born. That explains it, I though There was a funny taste to my Pablum.

  2. Eh on the one hand you can make alcohol by mistake hard, gunsmithing takes skill. And then there is the problem of the powder.

    • During alcohol prohibition, the vast majority of the illegal alcohol came from legal distilleries in foreign countries. People like Capone and Kennedy smuggled it in.

      Under gun prohibition, crates of government owned AKs would fall off of trucks all over the world.

      • Actually, in addition to alcohol smuggled into the US, there was a lot of manufacture going on within the US. In 1919, alcohol production was the 5th largest industry in the US. When it was outlawed, the brewery staff still had their knowledge & expertise, and the infrastructure still existed. People like Capone hired those people and acquired those buildings & equipment, and put it all back to use. Before being invited to Chicago by his friend Johnny Torrio, who was already distributing illegal alcohol, Capone was working as a bookkeeper for a construction company. Because Capone had those legit business skills, he was able to run his illegal operations in a very profitable way – and he diverted profits to legitimate businesses as well (if done by legal businesses, this is called diversifying. When done by someone running an illegal business, it’s called money laundering). Capone also convinced the gangs of Chicago to be more cooperative, dividing the area into territories to decrease conflict.

        For more:

    • Ever hear of a meth lab or LSD ? They are REAL hard to make. In fact LSD is made from deadly poisonous fungus just working with that is hard. Read about it. The materials used to make meth are watched and mostly hard to come by.
      All you need for the gun is steel and or aluminum. Basic metal working tools. A lathe, router etc. a CNC machine and CAD files would make it even easier.
      Now as far as powder, black powder is easy. Other powders are prolly easier to make than drugs. Certainly they are needed in MUCH smaller amounts.

      • I could make something approximating a gun right now in my garage. A tube that would fire at least one projectile that I could also make myself.

        I doubt I could make meth, even with instructions

        • Making the shell seems like it would be harder to make than the powder or projectile. But lets be honest, most of us TTAG readers have enough extra shells that are about to ding up the washing machine to last a while through a prohibition.

        • Yeah I am working off the assumption the raw materials I have stored would remain in tact. Powder, projectiles etc..

          One pistol shot to get a rifle, rifle to get more rifles and so on.

        • Owsley and the Merry Pranksters! Ken Kesey, Mountain Girl, “Electric Cool-Aid”, and “Further”. Your dating yourself, 16V . . .

        • Cuteandfuzzy, It’s “megahard” if you aren’t a decent chemist. (I’m not, nor do I play one on TV, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t tens of thousands out there…) Just saying that like any technical skill, it may be magic to you and me, but for those with the skillset, it’s rote.

          Garrison, yup I’m pushing 50. Guilty as charged.

        • Compressed air has worked for about 500 years. Not to mention the wide variety of inflammable gasses that could be called upon.

        • Look at Quackenbush air rifles. Big enough projectiles with enough kinetic energy to bring down deer at 50+ yards.

          This isn’t rocket science, folks. Firearms were the genesis of the machine tool industry in the US, not the other way ’round. Ergo, people here were making guns before they were making them with machine tools, but after gunsmiths and gun makers decided they wanted to make more guns, faster, we circumvented the British embargo on machine tools and steels and went to making our own.

        • Dennis builds some sweet pieces. He lives only a couple hundred miles from me, so I’ve run into him from time to time over the decades. Nice guy.

    • AK-47’s are made in Pakistani villages. In the stone age. I have more tools than they do in my garage. If there is a market, they will be produced.

  3. The last time the government tried prohibition was NOT alcohol.

    It’s the present day drug war.

    Too much idiocy in the first paragraph, I read no futher.

    • I was going to post the same thing, but noticed that he mentioned drug prohibition immediately after that.

  4. Prohibition is inherently wrong, flawed, destined to fail and all that.

    But there are some differences. Drugs and alcohol are more socially acceptable than guns. It’s tolerable and sometimes “cool” to be a drunk or druggie. In come places across America a gun owner is down among Klansmen and pedophiles.

    Another thing that makes it different is physical addiction. You aren’t going to start vomiting uncontrollably or convulsing in extreme pain if you can’t get to the range so the demand isn’t exactly the same as it is with drugs and alcohol.

    Third, you can drink and use drugs in silence. Can’t really shoot in silence. Even with a suppressor despite what the anti’s believe.

    There are probably more reasons a prohibition on guns is different than on drugs or alcohol but still prohibition on guns would be a colossal failure just as any prohibition is. Given the reasons I have stated your average guy wouldnt go out of his way in prohibition to aquire a firearm. Especially if the penalty was steep. And anyone who happened to own one wouldnt ever use it. But the criminal set naturally would proceed unabated. Only you, me and 80,000,000 other gun owners would be affected by prohibition.

    As far as the fad thing goes, well, the whole history of civilization is one cyclical fad after another. Human civilization is just one big tire-spinning go nowhere waste of time. It’s the clowns who pretend any of it is important that I love.

  5. As can be noticed, the gun control we already have has hardly put a dent in crimial use of firearms. Looking at more extreme examples, one just need look at Latin America to see that there is strict gun control in some of the most violent places. Even discounting Mexico, who hides behind the false reasoning that all its criminal weapons come from the US, you go further south where the supply lines are stretched and gun smuggling from the US is virtually non existant and you’ve got places just as bad a mexico where even large communities are terrorized by reletively small numbers of people.

  6. Organized crime is not an unintended consequence of prohibition; its very enactment is criminal, pushed by the most violent and amoral criminal organization in the nation.

  7. One difference is, a gun ban would be a BLATANT violation of the 2nd Ammendment (as if other gun control laws aren’t already…), while there never was a clear-cut Constitutional right to drink alcohol or do recreational pharmaceuticals. Plus, it’s easier to VEHEMENTLY protest – and enforce our displeasure with – a gun ban with the very objects they would be trying to ban – than with a still, a beer bottle, or a hash pipe (which is, of course, the REAL reason they want to disarm us – to make us helpless, drugged-out sheeple!).

  8. Gun control isn’t just an international fad and won’t just fade away. A freely armed people is the first and last barrier to complete tyranny. When a free people are armed, government has limits. Governing bodies’ control on the keeping and bearing of arms began with civilization. One group cannot dominate another without first disarming it. Modern arms, firearms, are different than alcohol, marijuana, and many other things in that the latter do not have the potential to stop tyrannical government like the keeping and bearing of arms has.

  9. 16th, 17th, and 18th Amendments: Proof that Congress isn’t trustworthy with the power they are assigned by that same document.

      • Seventeenth Amendment (one of many Progressive amendments passed during that time, along with Federal income tax) took away the power of State representation to the Federal Government and placed it into the hands of the general voter. This undermined the Founder’s intention of separation of power with the House representing the people and the Senate representing the States.

  10. If firearms were all out banned, I don’t think they would be unbanned for a long time. The left would rather watch the world collapse around them than admit they were wrong.

  11. Actually, prohibition was wildly successful. Alcoholism dropped greatly, and alcohol related deaths with it. Drinking levels did not approach pre-prohibition levels until the 1970’s

      • Implying it is the job of government to treat the nation as a laboratory for social experiments.

    • The operation was a success…but the patient died.

      It’d be more accurate to say that Prohibition wasn’t a complete failure. Very few things are ever complete failures. Having some positive effects doesn’t make it a success, either.

    • I have only read accounts that conflict with these assertions. In some areas alcohol consumption increased with prohibition. The federal poisoning program alone supposedly led to at least 10,000 deaths. I guess like with most things it comes down to which report one wants to believe.

      • Hardly anybody drank whiskey before prohibition. Consumption of hard kicker went through the roof. And I would not put to much faith in reported drinking numbers when booze is illegal. The people who stopped drinking because ofnthe law, likely where not people who drank enough to have a negative health or economic impact. And modest consumption is actually a net positive for health.

    • “Actually, prohibition was wildly successful. Alcoholism dropped greatly, and alcohol related deaths with it”

      Alcohol deaths *rose* during prohibition as a result by the additions of toxic nasties by the bootleggers to ‘stretch’ the distillate yield and increase the profits of those selling it.

      Wonderful contaminates like methanol.

      An excellent history of forensic chemistry is Deb Blum’s book:

      Chapters on the prohibition, the Radium Girls, arsenic poisoners, etc.

      *Highly* recommended…

    • Understandable, but at what cost? I would say that saving a few people from alcohol abuse and the side effects of it wasn’t worth the loss of Liberty, increased byzantine bureaucracy, unintentional growth of crime, and Progressive social engineering governance policies that we are still suffering from. Especially since the politicians themselves carved out exemptions for consumption of Alcohol.

  12. I think alcohol prohibition and gun bans are comparing apples and oranges. First, there was never an equivalent to 2A for alcohol. If there was an Article 5 effort for a Constitutional Amendment against guns, the logical move would be a repeal or modification of 2A. The fact that no anti-gun organization has launched a serious effort to do confirms my judgement that it would never happen.

    I think the anti-gun agenda is very different than prohibition. Rather than a prohibition, I see it continuing to be “a death by a thousand cuts.” 2A and private gun ownership will stand, but it will be chipped away at by legal end-runs. I think so-called “smart guns,” restrictive CC permit requirements, ammo bans, etc. are aimed not at prohibiting guns, but at making them useful only as objects not to use, but just to hang on our walls and look at.

    • “…I see it continuing to be “a death by a thousand cuts.””


      They DID learn from prohibition. They learned it created a black market and entire unregulated economy around booze whose effects are still felt today 80 something years after the fact.

      Chip away slowly at the thing, slowly change the general attitude toward the thing, slowly restrict the thing, eventually (and hopefully) the number of people who still want the thing is small enough to be managed.

      Never underestimate the enemy. And never forget that they ARE the enemy. They may not be an enemy in the classic sense of the word, but they are the enemy.

      • Another instructive example of how “they” learned from prohibition (and possibly the drug war) is tobacco. Sure it isn’t illegal, but, then people are only allowed to use it in very proscribed ways, places, times and it is taxed multiple 100% on top of its actual supply and demand determined price. I think most antis would be pretty happy with (though would still push for more) a situation like that for firearms/ammo.

  13. They can never completely ban guns, because they don’t want to. They still want the military and the police to have them. And as long as the military and police have them, then a large number of guns would be “misappropriated” into the hands of criminals and noncompliant citizens.

    Some gun-grabbers want to take the guns away from the police eventually, but that will never happen. You can’t take the guns away from the police, and then enforce a gun ban against everyone else. You can’t force someone to give up his guns by threatening him with billy-clubs and megaphones – He’ll just shoot you if you try.

    All of this has and is happening in other gun-free-nations all over the world. “If you make owning guns a crime, then the only people who will own guns will be the criminals” …and the cops and military.

    • All they have to do is take a cue from NY (SAFE act). Add some additional laws like banning ammo, restricting quantity etc..
      I can think of dozens of ways to virtually eliminate the use of firearms without an actual ban.

  14. Corporations would love a gun ban — it would leave them room for having private armies to protect them against crime, giving them even more special status than they have now.

    So the result of a gun ban would be economic feudalism writ plain.

  15. “Prohibition on alcoholic beverages began with ratification of the 18th amendment to the constitution in 1920.”

    This is a very popular misconception. The absolute national ban on alcohol started then but it did not just pop up out of nowhere. By the time that the 18th amendment passed approximately half the states and many local governments had similar bans. This was a whole movement, a whole philosophy, that had begun in the mid to late 19th century. The Temperance Movement as it was known. BTW alcohol bans and restrictions are still in effect in parts the U.S.A.

    The social progressives (then) were made up largely of religious women (its mostly/all guys holding the pro-beer signs) and they sought to make all kinds of things illegal: prostitution, alcohol, guns, and drugs. The Harrison Narcotics Tax Act, the 18th amendment, and the National Firearms Act all happened within about 20 years. That is not by accident. They had a dangerously childlike naivete when it came to public policy – if its “bad” ban it. And the appeal was often for the sake of “the children”. Sound familiar?

  16. Because Methamphetamine is banned, everything you need to make it (immediately) is banned, anything even remotely close to possibly being used to make it is heavily regulated to the point that it has nearly shut down science and industry totally unrelated to it, and you can still buy it in less than an hour, anywhere in this country even if you don’t know a guy…

    So, something like a gun, which is so easy to make it’s like falling down…

    Wait a second there liberal douchebag, I know, you’re about to tyry to change the subject by saying “But meth isn’t a murdertool you baby killer!”

    Doesn’t that make it EVEN MORE IMPOIRTANT to stop using BS tactics like changing the subject when you know you’re about to lose?

    It does not matter if you think it’s more important to do impossible thing A over impossible thing B. We’re demonstrating that even an amazingly difficult to manufacture piece of contraband is still readily available, so how can something orders of magnitude easier to manufacture end up eradicated?

    If you really care about the children, stop with the BS arguments and start taking responsibility for the fact that you can’t stuff guns back into Pandora’s Box. You can’t. You can’t shut off gravity with a vote, either. Grow up and step into reality!

    All you can do is get a gun of your own and be the responsible Adult/Parent you’re supposed to be. The children look up to you for protection. If you choose to be just as helpless as they are, you’ve betrayed them in the worst way you can.

    • Laws against drugs don’t make the normally law abiding weaker. The argument iagainst prohibition is much stronger with guns because if you prohibit guns and they can still be manufactured, you disarm the good guys and the bad guy still gets the advantage of being armed.

    • @dustin–“If you choose to be just as helpless as they are, you’ve betrayed them in the worst way you can.”

      Apply this statement to those who are compromising away our rights, which is Democrats and Republicans. I read a comment on here the other day about the back ground checks in Oregon, and the commentor was delusional in his response. His response was akin to lying and saying “It will be Okay”, in the face of a little child looking up for help after already letting the kid be shot do to the adults impotence as a protector. This unfortunate person’s response was “I live in a Red County and my representatives were against it”, and he is unable to see that his RED representatives willingly agreed to infringe upon personal liberty and get paid selling the citizens out. Red or Blue no longer matters as they are on the same side, which is dividing good men from statists.

  17. Another very similar issue is Breed Specific Legislation for dogs. The similarities between that issue and restrictive gun laws is eerily similar. Same basic issues: Is it the dogs fault or the owner’s? Solution, ban certain breeds of dogs. Are all dogs of that specific breed dangerous? Pretty easy to prove they are not and difficult to prove they are but ban them anyway. Are there other dogs of other breeds that also might be dangerous ? Pretty easy to prove there are but ban that specific breed anyway “For the Children”. Another law passed by do-gooder politicians that appears to solve a problem but, in reality, accomplishes very little other than garnering votes for them from people too ignorant to see the truth.

  18. “Just as the “War on Drugs” has made violent drug lords into billionaires, a “War on Guns” would net the same result.”

    The Liberals tell me I’d be mad if guns were banned because money. I tell them I’d make way more money just like their pot dealer makes way more money… It really makes them mad.

  19. This is a diversion and hurts our cause when we give it the dignity of argument.

    It doesn’t mater if it works. The right to keep and bear arms is freedom. Period. If you want the government to baby you and tell you what you’re allowed to own and do with your life, move to Europe.

    America should be about freedom, and freedom is dangerous. If you can’t handle it, get out, you’re in the way.

  20. I look at this same alcohol/guns issue at another angle…

    They want to bans guns because they hurt and kill people (apparently all on their own). What about alcohol? Apply all of their same arguments to alcohol. Ask any cop on the street – Alcohol is THE biggest driver of violence, crime, etc. How many lives are ruined by alcohol, How many deaths caused? It is WAY more than guns. So any argument they try to apply to guns, we should ask them – OK, so let’s apply that same ban/law/restriction to alcohol too then right??? And what about cigarettes?? Make them illegal too? how many children have to breathe cigarette smoke and end up smoking because people around them did?

    I think that quickly helps them see the fallacy of their argument. Freedom is beautiful. It’s what makes life worth living. But it comes with risk. If you have no risk, you are not free. I would rather die a free man than live like the liberals want us to – in a police state, where everything we do is mandated by the government in order to ‘keep us more safe’. Ben was right. Those who would trade freedom for the promise of a little more safety, deserve neither.

  21. You missed it. We’ve had prohibition of unpopular drugs since the 1950’s. Not because we didn’t learn anything from the original “Prohibition”, but because the crooks learned faster and better. The “War on Drugs” has had its undesirable side effects published, ballyhooed, analyzed, advertised and demonstrated so many times, in so many ways, it is no longer conceivable that anyone in a position of influence or power could possibly entertain the idea that it’s anything but poison to the body politic. Therefore, those who most loudly (and effectively!) promote the War on Drugs need to be closely audited to find out just who’s paying them to keep pushing the fantasy…and keep the money flowing to the cartels.

  22. The history of Prohibition, the War on Some Drugs and gun control all have a very common thread running through them all: The political base for all of these “movements” has been a cadre of busybody women who want to wag their fingers and lecture men about how we should behave and be nice, docile beasts of burden, be “civilized” and fork over our material gains in a nice, quiet fashion for the benefit of these women and their demonic spawn.

    It’s the same crap, same hysteria, same emotional pleading for the legislative branch to “Do Something!” every time. History repeats, and this thread in history is repeated again, and again, and again.

  23. I think Ken Burn’s Documentary on Prohibition was a very informative, abit a dry (no pun intended) show that showed how Prohibition came to be. It did a very good job showing how 1) The Temperance and Progressive movement did a very good job targeting the young children years before and never rested on any setbacks they experienced prior to adoption of the Amendment, and 2) Prohibition passed largely because everyone thought it wouldn’t effect “them”. Even some beer companies supported prohibition because they thought it would just ban hard liquor and give them a monopoly on alcohol sales. It wasn’t until the bill that was introduced after the passage of the amendment that outlined the regulation and enforcement of Prohibitions in which most of these same supporters started to realize how they weren’t being exempted after all.

  24. Yep, prohibition works alright – whenever tells someone they can’t have it, the government creates an immediate demand and we’ve all see how that works with alcohol, porn and cannabis. The problem is that no legislator has ever bothered to learn from these lessons in futility and we get these touchy-feely political newcomers whose irrational responses to emotional aspects of issues are acted on, rather than succumb to logical, rational and scientific analysis to guide their actions.

  25. Thanks for the comments on my first TTAG article. I have a couple of points to clarify.

    The purpose of the post was to draw parallels of the prohibition and gun control movements. Both were/are driven by the same misguided arguments, and in some cases, demographics.

    Obviously prohibition didn’t happen overnight. A 90 year temperance movement wore down opposition, and new generations were raised to believe the same. Then as the movement gained steam following a half-century of war, states passed laws one by one banning alcohol. Sound familiar?

    None of this article was a “reason to avoid a firearm ban,” but instead a look at the consequences of such actions (the road to hell being paved with good intentions) as well as the effectiveness of artificial bans in general. I think the constitution is reason-enough to avoid firearm bans.

    While many substances have been deemed illegal by the US government, there is a history of back-sliding toward legalization. Obvious examples include alcohol and marijuana. This shows that eventually people out-grow the urge to ban specific things.

    Pprohibitions have been passed (and are still in practice in many cases), but there is reason to push through. If we fight the good fight we will be victorious in defending the 2nd amendment. Our opposition will eventually give up on this ban and move to ban something else, such as sugar, salt, bacon or the rest of my breakfast.

    Prohibition took 90 years to pass and 13 years to repeal. We have to remain strong and weather the storm. Tomorrow could be a beautiful day.

    Thanks again!

    • You wrote a good article and thanks for sharing it. 🙂

      If we fight the good fight we will be victorious in defending the 2nd amendment. Our opposition will eventually give up on this ban and move to ban something else, such as sugar, salt, bacon or the rest of my breakfast.

      I strongly disagree. A government can only grow in power so far until it must disarm its people to gain more. The individual RKBA is somewhat unique in that it acts as a check on tyranny. Governments always seek more power. It is the nature of government. The cost of liberty is eternal vigilance, especially on this particular matter. Eventually, the push to disarm the individual will come up… again and again and again. This one will never stop.

      • As I stated earlier, they will learn from states like NY. Slowly start making it difficult to obtain ammunition. In NY to buy ammo you must visit a physical store (no internet sales allowed) where they take down your name and do a background check. This law was rammed thru virtually overnight. Good luck trying to repeal it.
        That is why this Congresswoman from NJ is so dangerous. I can see restrictions on quantity (who needs more than a 1000 rounds?) Next will be a restriction on stockpiling etc.. At the end we will be lucky if we can own a shotgun.

  26. Oh, it’s worse than that.

    The “synergies” between black market, illegal firearms, and black market, illegal drugs for organized crime are enough to give every MBA candidate at a name-brand school a perma-stiffie of such intensity and duration, that they’d all need to call their doctor.

    Yeah, let’s make those illegal too. The cartels need another revenue stream off the same operations. And more freedom of action, because they’d know the only opposition they might encounter – other cartels, or law enforcement. Roust or intimidate anyone, any time. No risk, ever.


  27. The great thing about theories is that often we can test them with actual empirical data !

    We already know from studies of the countries that do NOT have have gun bans – they have a homicide rate of nearly FOUR TIMES that of countries that DO have firearms bans (6.5 vs 1.8 deaths per 100k).

    So the epidemiological and sociological question is – why do guns ban work and alcohol bans dont ?

    As an aside – most in the gun control lobby want gun controls (hence the name) not gun bans. They just want to be sure that if a person has a gun – they are suitable. Given that gun controls work (yes – even in the US , comparison of rates of states with strong vs weak controls shows that they work – in addition to all the countries world wide showing it).

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