Opinion: Daily Journal

The Rifles Aren’t The Point

RALEIGH – Maybe it’s just my lineage boiling up inside me, but I was annoyed to learn that the state of North Carolina had armed its Alcohol Law Enforcement (ALE) agents with Sig Sauer rifles.

I’m a teetotaler. But I come from a long line of mountain folks with, uh, different predilections. Revenuers are bad enough. But revenuers with high-powered rifles? What for? What’s worse, reports the Raleigh News & Observer, two of the Sigs have been stolen within the past year. I guess that makes them revenuers who used to have high-powered rifles. I don’t like that any better.

That ALE continues to exist as a separate law-enforcement agency is evidence of the fact that once bad ideas become public policy, it is exceedingly difficult to root them out and move forward (would-be health “reformers” and energy commissars, take note). Prohibition was a foolish and disastrous idea. Levying special excise taxes on alcoholic beverages was and is a wrongheaded idea, compelling drinkers to shoulder an excessive tax burden while creating artificial markets for bootlegged hooch. And having the state attempt to monopolize the sale of hard liquor through ABC stores is an idiotic idea that hurts consumers and puts state and local government in the awkward position of simultaneously trying to “control” alcohol consumption and maximize alcohol sales to generate revenue for the government.

The only laws about alcohol that should remain on the books are these:

• No one under the age of 18 should be permitted to purchase alcoholic beverages.

• Anyone who gets drunk and injures or kills another because of it – like what happened so tragically over the weekend to a young Carolina Ballet dancer here in Raleigh – should receive a draconian sentence.

• Anyone selling alcohol beverages should be required to label their products accurately.

You don’t need a separate state police agency to enforce these laws. And without them, there is no need for ALE agents to be in the business of policing other potential crimes at establishments serving alcohol, such as prostitution or gambling. As I have previously written, personal freedom and personal foibles are a package deal. You can’t live in a free society without allowing for the possibility that some people, and perhaps even many people, will do things to themselves that are harmful, dangerous, or at least exceedingly stupid. It’s not the government’s job to force individuals to make good decisions. It’s the government job to prevent or deter individuals from injuring the persons or property of others.

So while I don’t understand why ALE agents were issued the rifles in question, I don’t think that’s the main problem. We shouldn’t have ALE agents at all. I want North Carolina’s law enforcement officers to be well-armed. Indeed, I think it’s a net plus for North Carolinians to arm themselves for self-defense as they wish.

What I don’t want is for the state North Carolina to keep trying to enforce laws that violate individual liberty, property rights, and common sense.

Hood is president of the John Locke Foundation