Forbidden Fruit

If you live in Australia, particularly Victoria or South Australia, you would have to have been particularly oblivious to the world around you not to have heard about the two most recent bikie-gang related shootings, one of which was fatal. While the one in Melbourne earlier this week seems to have been of a more personal nature than the one in Adelaide a few weeks earlier, that is not stopping the politicians from jumping on the populist band-wagon and demanding that we simply eradicate bikie gangs (think Hell’s Angels and such). These shootings both seem to have particularly upset the public because they took place in very public areas that are generally considered very safe. Perhaps if you live in another corner of the world, while the shootings would of course be upsetting, they might not be as scandalous and note-worthy. The violence of guns is invading Australia’s living-room so to speak.
Both Mike Rann, the South Australian premier, and Stephen Pallaras, QC, the Adelaide Director of Public Prosecutions have called for laws outlawing bikie-gangs following these incidents. Rann goes so far as to liken the members of these gangs to terrorists.
This brief summary of the situation in Australia sets the scene for me driving along yesterday lunch time listening to the ABC‘s The World Today. I actually really enjoy driving around doing errands around lunchtime because it’s a very good news program.
And yesterday, as I’m going over my grocery shopping list in my head, my ears pricked up when the presenter was interviewing Dr. Arthur Veno about bikie gangs in relation to the alleged shooter in the Melbourne incident. He’s an expert, because he’s written 2 books (including The Brotherhoods: Inside the Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs ) on the illegal activities of bikie gangs. Now what struck me was the following exchange, which you can read the transcript of yourself by clicking on it:

ALISON CALDWELL [journalist]: Concerned about increased criminal activity and violence among outlawed motorcycle gangs, many are now calling for new laws to deal with the problem.

Dr Arthur Veno isn’t one of them.

ARTHUR VENO: Absolutely not. C90, C95 in Canada, the RICO Act in America, the Scandinavian countries have all tried similar kinds of legislation. It has not worked one iota. It simply draws the club’s underground, in a lot of cases weeds out the more moderate elements of the club, and the clubs do then become even more violent.

Wow! this made me sit up and pay attention, because it confirms something I believe in very strongly in yet ANOTHER context:

Prohibition does not work!

This applies to the War on Drugs as well. The best arguments for this can be found in Law Enforcement Against Prohibition’s video where U.S. law enforcement officers (past and present) present a very strong case for legalization of drugs. One of the speakers, Peter Christ, is quick to point out that this is “not to be construed as a solution to the drug problem” but as a solution to the crime and cost associated with that problem.
Another speaker in the video, Chief Jerry Cameron, says, “What kills me is we don’t learn from history.” And how right he is! Think of the form of prohibition that most people think of when they hear the term: the prohibition of alcohol in America – look how successful that was!
And the history lesson can go back even further than that. As my good friend Mary pointed out, prohibition was a failure from the very start. Even God was unsuccessful at prohibition – witness Adam and Eve and the forbidden fruit.

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