OpEd: Enforcing Victimless Crime Laws Leads to Victims

by Rob Yates
LPNC Communications Director

The shootout in Charlotte between the police and a desperate individual never had to happen. 

Yesterday, a nightmare scenario unfolded in Charlotte. Alerts were flooding people's phone and news stations were cutting into programming to follow the shootout that took place over nearly half the day. 

According to the latest reports, three federal Marshalls went to the home of Terry Clark Hughes Jr. to serve an outstanding warrant. Apparently, Hughes had previously been convicted and gone to jail on a breaking and entering conviction, but he had served his time successfully, and all his subsequent alleged offenses which initiated the warrant that led to the tragic deaths were for drugs, evading police, and possession of firearms. All of these things are victimless crimes.

Now I understand that these are, for sure, crimes under the law. Regardless of my personal feelings on the matter, I get that the police were following laws that many see to be reasonable. While at this time there do not appear to be any allegations that Hughes had engaged in violence against a person prior to yesterday, he had certainly committed violence against property, and there is a case that he should not be allowed to possess a firearm because of that, though I disagree with that perspective.

Without question, violent crime is a problem. While overall crime rates appear to be declining, and have been since 1991, there have been recent significant spikes in crime, especially violent crime. Even those appear to be back on the decline in much of North Carolina, although Charlotte is an exception.

This is not lost on the residents of Charlotte, either. When I ran for mayor last election cycle, in talking to people around the city, their top issues were affordable housing, transportation, and public safety, the last a refrain I heard repeatedly, and reflected in answers given by other candidates about their top priorities.

The role of police in society should be to protect person and property from violent aggressors, and I would argue that it is responsible to assist law enforcement in pursuit of that goal, provided they are held accountable when they violate people's rights. Unfortunately, when law enforcement is asked to enforce laws that exist solely to perpetuate a particular morality, bad things happen.

This is exactly what happened in Charlotte yesterday. Hughes had not committed, as far as we know, any subsequent offenses that would constitute acts of aggression against another's person or property. He was in possession of firearms. Unless they changed the Bill of Rights in the last few hours, I am fairly certain the Second Amendment reads "...the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

This is not an argument against gun control, though I should state I am unequivocally opposed to any attempt by the state to impede your right to defend yourself, whatsoever. Rather, I am making the point that five people woke up yesterday for the last time ever because the enforcement arm of the state is obligated to enforce irrational and counterproductive laws.

One quick way to reduce crime is to stop making everything a crime based on personal moral preferences. You don't have to support people doing drugs to support people being able to put whatever they want into their own bodies. You don't have to be a gun person to support people's right to defend themselves. You don't have to believe in something to support other people's right to do it, provided they don't hurt others or take their stuff.

The sad fact is that yesterday's tragedy is a tragedy of our own making. That outcome was determined long ago. Hughes opened fire first, and immediate culpability for the deaths lies squarely at his feet. But the situation that created the shootout never had to happen.

If we really want to see public safety and criminal justice reform and improvement, we should start by getting every single victimless crime off the books (I will caveat that there is behavior so reckless that it ought to be potentially considered a crime even if no one is hurt, like firing a weapon into a crowd with wanton disregard). Today, the U.S. announced that is likely to reschedule marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III. This is absurd, as it still gives regulators and bureaucrats in some far away city the authority to deprive people of life and Liberty for ingesting a plant, even if no one gets hurt.

U.S. Congressional representatives from North Carolina introduced a bill to punish the Eastern Band of Cherokee for legalizing pot usage on their land. HB 189 189 continues to languish in legislative purgatory, as Republicans fail to act on making Constitutional Carry (as in legally carrying firearms as enshrined in our constitution) the law of North Carolina.

Understand this... neither political party has any interest in giving you back power or agency in your life. As entities, they are dedicated to consolidating their own, respective, power and enforcing the morality which they believe superior on the population they would claim to serve. Events like yesterday and the lives lost are collateral damage and photo ops for those politicians, and nothing more. They will issue vapid, meaningless statements, hold their moments of silence, maybe meet with a few families, and then move on, remembering the events only when it serves some purpose of theirs again.

This is a crucial year. For the first time in a long time, the cracks in the walled fortress the uniparty has erected are beginning to show. We have a chance to drive real, meaningful change, taking back some of our Liberty and helping create a more prosperous state. Events like yesterday should serve as a stark reminder of where things can go if we squander these chances.

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