The Truth About Gun Control

Who is sovereign in the United States? Is it the People themselves, or is it an elite determined to rule citizens who are seen as incapable of making choices about their own lives? This is the central question of the American gun‐​control debate.In The Truth About Gun Control, David B.Kopel, associate policy analyst at the Cato Institute, explains why the right to keep and bear arms has always been central to the American identity‐​and why Americans have always resisted gun control.Gun control is not an issue of left vs. right, or urban vs. rural. The right to bear arms is crucial to prevent large‐​scale tyranny by criminal governments and small‐​scale tyranny by ordinary criminals‐​and to protect our Constitution.

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Tough Targets: When Criminals Face Armed Resistance from Citizens

This special publication uses an extensive collection of news reports from over an eight‐​year period to survey the circumstances and outcomes of defensive gun uses in America. Federal and state lawmakers often oppose repealing or amending laws governing the ownership or carrying of guns. That opposition is often based on assumptions that the average citizen is incapable of successfully employing a gun in self‐​defense or that possession of a gun in public will tempt people to violence in contentious situations.

Those assumptions, illustrated in this report, are false. Such cases are an exceedingly small minority of gun uses by otherwise law‐​abiding citizens and a great number of tragedies‐​murders, rapes, assaults, robberies‐​have been thwarted by self‐​defense gun uses. The vast majority of gun owners are ethical and competent — and thousands of crimes are prevented each year by ordinary citizens with guns.

This report’s analysis begins with an overview of the academic studies that have tried to estimate the frequency of defensive gun uses. It then examines recent legal issues and trends surrounding the law of self defense, and then explores the manner and circumstances in which people use guns against criminals.

This paper also examines instances of gun use in self‐​defense in order to provide a better understanding of their character. When ordinary Americans use guns in self defense, what is the nature of that use? How frequently do these events occur and what are the consequences? Finally, a lengthy Appendix provides scores of documented examples in which ordinary people have used guns to defend themselves.

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Drug Decriminalization in Portugal: Lessons for Creating Fair and Successful Drug Policies

On July 1, 2001, a nationwide law in Portugal took effect that decriminalized all drugs, including cocaine and heroin. Under the new legal framework, all drugs were “decriminalized,” not “legalized.” Thus, drug possession for personal use and drug usage itself are still legally prohibited, but violations of those prohibitions are deemed to be exclusively administrative violations and are removed completely from the criminal realm. Drug trafficking continues to be prosecuted as a criminal offense.

While other states in the European Union have developed various forms of de facto decriminalization — whereby substances perceived to be less serious (such as cannabis) rarely lead to criminal prosecution — Portugal remains the only EU member state with a law explicitly declaring drugs to be “decriminalized.” Because more than seven years have now elapsed since enactment of Portugal’s decriminalization system, there are ample data enabling its effects to be assessed.

Notably, decriminalization has become increasingly popular in Portugal since 2001. Except for some far‐​right politicians, very few domestic political factions are agitating for a repeal of the 2001 law. And while there is a widespread perception that bureaucratic changes need to be made to Portugal’s decriminalization framework to make it more efficient and effective, there is no real debate about whether drugs should once again be criminalized. More significantly, none of the nightmare scenarios touted by preenactment decriminalization opponents — from rampant increases in drug usage among the young to the transformation of Lisbon into a haven for “drug tourists” — has occurred.

The political consensus in favor of decriminalization is unsurprising in light of the relevant empirical data. Those data indicate that decriminalization has had no adverse effect on drug usage rates in Portugal, which, in numerous categories, are now among the lowest in the EU, particularly when compared with states with stringent criminalization regimes. Although postdecriminalization usage rates have remained roughly the same or even decreased slightly when compared with other EU states, drug‐​related pathologies — such as sexually transmitted diseases and deaths due to drug usage — have decreased dramatically. Drug policy experts attribute those positive trends to the enhanced ability of the Portuguese government to offer treatment programs to its citizens — enhancements made possible, for numerous reasons, by decriminalization.

This report will begin with an examination of the Portuguese decriminalization framework as set forth in law and in terms of how it functions in practice. Also examined is the political climate in Portugal both pre‐ and post‐​decriminalization with regard to drug policy, and the impetus that led that nation to adopt decriminalization.

The report then assesses Portuguese drug policy in the context of the EU’s approach to drugs. The varying legal frameworks, as well as the overall trend toward liberalization, are examined to enable a meaningful comparative assessment between Portuguese data and data from other EU states.

The report also sets forth the data concerning drug‐​related trends in Portugal both pre‐ and post‐​decriminalization. The effects of decriminalization in Portugal are examined both in absolute terms and in comparisons with other states that continue to criminalize drugs, particularly within the EU.

The data show that, judged by virtually every metric, the Portuguese decriminalization framework has been a resounding success. Within this success lie self‐​evident lessons that should guide drug policy debates around the world.

Read the rest of the report.

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Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America

Americans have long maintained that a man’s home is his castle and that he has the right to defend it from unlawful intruders. Unfortunately, that right may be disappearing. Over the last 25 years, America has seen a disturbing militarization of its civilian law enforcement, along with a dramatic and unsettling rise in the use of paramilitary police units (most commonly called Special Weapons and Tactics, or SWAT) for routine police work. The most common use of SWAT teams today is to serve narcotics warrants, usually with forced, unannounced entry into the home.

These increasingly frequent raids, 40,000 per year by one estimate, are needlessly subjecting nonviolent drug offenders, bystanders, and wrongly targeted civilians to the terror of having their homes invaded while they’re sleeping, usually by teams of heavily armed paramilitary units dressed not as police officers but as soldiers. These raids bring unnecessary violence and provocation to nonviolent drug offenders, many of whom were guilty of only misdemeanors. The raids terrorize innocents when police mistakenly target the wrong residence. And they have resulted in dozens of needless deaths and injuries, not only of drug offenders, but also of police officers, children, bystanders, and innocent suspects.

This paper presents a history and overview of the issue of paramilitary drug raids, provides an extensive catalogue of abuses and mistaken raids, and offers recommendations for reform.

Botched Paramilitary Police Raids: An Interactive Map

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