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Guns & Drugs Don't Mix

Ogden shootout is another sign that America's War on Drugs is a war on itself

By Bob Sawatzki
Posted // February 3,2012 - The “War on Drugs” has entered a new phase in Utah, pitting hometown, combattrained young men against each other in a backyard battle. Officer Jared Francom, 30, was killed Jan. 4 while attempting to serve a search warrant at an Ogden pot-grower’s house. Five other officers of the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force were wounded in the shootout.

Matthew Stewart, 37, is charged with aggravated murder, seven counts of attempted aggravated murder, and production of a controlled substance in a drug-free zone (his house is across the street from a church).

Stewart isn’t an illegal alien or a gang member, and he claims he isn’t a dealer. He’s a military veteran whose father has told the media he suffers from posttraumatic stress syndrome. He was, according to his father’s claims, “selfmedicating” with homegrown pot. He was also reportedly willing to die for his right to get high. “I’ll go out in a blaze of glory and shoot to kill,” he boasted to a friend last summer, according to the police affidavit about the shootout.

Stewart reportedly had a hiding place ready in his house where he raked incoming officers with fire from his 9mm Berretta. He continued shooting as officers attempted to drag away the wounded, and he had a strategic withdrawal plan, climbing out a window and retreating to the shed in the back yard. Stewart was wounded four times and, until this week, was recuperating in the hospital along with the five officers he wounded in addition to Francom. Stewart was booked into Weber County Jail on Monday to await trial.

The last time an officer was killed in the line of duty in Ogden was 1963, so it’s been a wake-up call for residents. Hundreds attended a hastily organized candlelight vigil. A demolition derby was held to raise funds for the wounded officers, and local businesses are donating percentages of proceeds from special events.

The symbolic importance of the gunfight was immediately seized upon by Gov. Gary Herbert. Flags were ordered to fly at half-mast and, escorted by a phalanx of state troopers on motorcycles, Herbert came to town for Francom’s funeral held at Weber State University’s Dee Events Center. More than 4,000 people were in attendance, including sheriff and police departments from across Utah.

Buses full of Boy Scout troops set out thousands of American flags along the procession route. An estimated 400 to 500 police vehicles were part of the funeral procession. Francom was buried with full honors including a 21-gun salute and aircraft flyover.

Three days after the busted bust, the Utah Gun Collectors Association held its tri-annual gun show at the Weber County Fairgrounds. More than 200 exhibitors were set up to display and sell tens of thousands of guns.

According to a 2007 survey, American citizens own 270,000,000 guns. With 88.8 guns per hundred citizens, we lead the rest of the world by a long way, yet we keep buying more. 2011 was a record year for gun sales. According to FBI statistics, 1,534,414 names were submitted for gunpurchase background checks, a third of that total occurring in the week before Christmas.

In addition to providing a sense of “security,” guns have become status symbols. Concealed-carry permits have made custom holsters and blinged-out purses into fashion accessories. Can it be that all these people are arming themselves against terrorists or the threat of foreign invasion? It seems more likely that what they’re really afraid of is each other.

Ever since Richard Nixon declared a “War on Drugs” in 1971, there has been a steady growth in percentage of incarcerated Americans—another category in which America leads the world. In 1994, a million citizens were arrested for drug offenses, a quarter of them for possession of marijuana. By 2008, the number was up to 1.5 million. In 2010, it is estimated that the federal government spent $15 billion on the War on Drugs. You have to wonder if maybe it’s time to declare victory and bring home the troops.

Marijuana is one of nature’s bounties, its beneficial qualities acknowledged by many in the health-care industry. How did a common weed become a “controlled substance?” How did things get so twisted that a veteran wanting only to chill out ends up in a gun battle defending his turf?

The shootout in Ogden is symptomatic of a conflict between converging trends: the rise in gun ownership and the increasing acceptance of medical marijuana.

With civil liberties in conflict, something has to give. You have the right to bear arms, and you may establish the right to self-medicate, but you can’t have both at the same time.

Dude, if you’re smoking pot, lay down your arms. Guns and drugs don’t mix. Don’t operate heavy machinery, either, when you’re high. Stay away from staple guns. Don’t drive on the freeway in rushhour traffic. Most of all, don’t insist on your right to self-medicate when you’re packing heat.

Someday, the War on Drugs will be over and Americans will look back on our era as Prohibition II, an age of repression just as ineffective and counter-productive as the original Prohibition. With so many casualties on both sides, it seems that America’s War on Drugs is a war on itself.

Bob Sawatzki is an Ogden resident who works at the library to support his writing habit. 
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Posted // February 3,2012 at 14:53

"You have the right to bear arms, and you may establish the right to self-medicate, but you can’t have both at the same time."

Rights are not exclusive. I have a gun on me and yet I can still use free speech.

Those who use it for genuinely medical reasons, and also those who just use it in larger amounts, do not become incapacitated from using it.

" Stay away from staple guns."

Don't you think that it's pretty insulting to tell sick people they are too stupid to live their lives?



Posted // February 3,2012 at 10:02

Sorry Bob, but I have to correct you there: It's Prohibition and Guns that don't mix. - Kindly stop looking for excuses to disarm otherwise law abiding citizens.

* Due to Prohibition (historically proven to be an utter failure at every level), the availability of most of these mood-altering drugs has become so universal and unfettered that in any city of the civilized world, any one of us would be able to procure practically any drug we wish within an hour.

* Throughout history, the prohibition of any mind-altering substance has always exploded usage rates, overcrowded jails, fueled organized crime, created rampant corruption of law-enforcement - even whole governments, while inducing an incalculable amount of suffering and death. 

* It's not even possible to keep drugs out of prisons, but prohibitionists wish to waste hundreds of billions of our money in an utterly futile attempt to keep them off our streets.

* The United States jails a larger percentage of it's own citizens than any other country in the world, including those run by the worst totalitarian regimes, yet it has far higher use/addiction rates than most other countries.

* Prohibition is the "Goose that laid the golden egg" and the lifeblood of terrorists as well as drug cartels. Both the Taliban and the terrorists of al Qaeda derive their main income from the prohibition-inflated value of the opium poppy. An estimated 44 % of the heroin produced in Afghanistan, with an estimated annual destination value of US $ 27 Billion, transits through Pakistan. Prohibition has essentially destroyed Pakistan's legal economy and social fabric. - We may be about to witness the planet's first civil war in a nation with nuclear capabilities. - Kindly Google: 'A GLOBAL OVERVIEW OF NARCOTICS-FUNDED TERRORIST GROUPS' Only those opposed, or willing to ignore these facts, want things the way they are.

* The future depends on whether or not enough of us are willing to take a long look at the tragic results of prohibition. If we continue to skirt the primary issue while refusing to address the root problem then we can expect no other result than a worsening of the current dire situation. - Good intentions, wishful thinking and pseudoscience are no match for the immutable realities of human nature.

* The urge to save humanity is almost always a false-face for the urge to rule it. - H. L. Mencken (1880-1956) American editor, essayist and philologist.



Posted // February 3,2012 at 12:00 - Thank you, Malcolm. Although I own firearms, I'm not into open carry or anything weird or childish about guns. But the War on Drugs has produced absolutely nothing except a thriving illegal trade full of violence, full prisons, billions in tax money blown forever down the sewer, criminal thugs and cartels turned into the 1% and a culture in law enforcement of getting dressed in battlefield gear and breaking down doors with mixed results. I was reading a story yesterday about a poor woman and her little daughter sitting in their apartment back east and suddenly she heard commotion in the hallway and a chainsaw cut through her door, ran down the side of the jam and an FBI assualt squad kicked down the rest of the door and ran in. They made her get down on the ground while her kid cried the whole time from a back bedroom and made her lie in a pool of pee her frightened puppy provided for almost an hour until they realized that, ooops!, it's apartment 2F, not 2G. She said a guy from terh FBI came by the next day, stood at her front door and apologized for the 'mix-up' and left. She laughed and said he should have at least given her a hug or something! Reminded me of our guys in Ogden to a tee.