Thursday, January 3, 2013

A Modest Proposal

(With apologies to Jonathan Swift.  The following is a fictional future report to the president, as to what the next regulatory priority should be, following the recent passage of major gun control legislation.)

Mr. President,

The committee has reached the conclusion that the next priority for expanded federal regulatory control should be alcoholic beverages.  Our reasons and suggested regulations are detailed in the attached report – but the following is a comprehensive summary.

According to the CDC 75,000 deaths annually can be directly attributed to alcohol – 13,674 of these were motor vehicle deaths directly attributable to driving drunk.  To these deaths can be added approximately 7,000 additional deaths in motor vehicle accidents in which alcohol is a major factor, meaning that the at fault driver has a significant amount of alcohol in their system below the legal limit.  (This 2:1 ratio has been constant for decades.)  Of course, many more deaths are by caused alcohol each year – but just the 75,000 annual deaths CDC attributes to drinking each year is the equivalent of a plane crash killing 205 people every day.  If this were happening, would it not be headline news?  Would the public not demand that all planes be grounded and remain so until a way could be found to stop the crashes? 

Furthermore, this figure is 7.5 times higher than the number of firearms homicides last year, and is at least 200 times higher than homicides committed with the “assault rifles” we were recently able to ban.

We should remember that alcohol impacts our children.    Nearly 2,000 kids die each year (1,794 in 2006 alone) in motor vehicle accidents.  Since at least 75% of traffic deaths are “alcohol related”, we can estimate that 1,500 kids die year in auto accidents caused by alcohol.  The CDC indicates that 171 children die each year due to neglect directly caused by alcohol.

Then there is the matter of child murders.  Indexing a 1997 study for population growth, and applying the fact that 75% of murders of young children are alcohol related, 609 children under 6 are murdered each year due to alcohol abuse!  That is almost two kids murdered every day due to alcohol abuse!

While it is impossible to know how many kids die each year due to alcohol, using just the figures above, at least 2,700 kids die each year – THE SAME AS A “SANDY HOOK” HAPPENING EVERY THREE DAYS!

Of course, many more children are impacted by alcohol than are killed by it.  Alcohol is the single biggest factor in child abuse - mothers convicted of child abuse are 3 times more likely to be alcoholics,  fathers are 10 times more likely to be alcoholics.  Further more, most alcoholics begin drinking long before they can legally buy alcohol.  In fact, a full 40% of those who take their first drink before age 15 will become dependent upon it.  

Then there is the matter of child molestation.  Our studies indicate that 49% of child molestations involve the abuse of alcohol.  


We need to do something to control alcohol in the US.  After all, no one “needs” to consume alcohol of any kind, much less hard liquor.  There is also no constitutional right to alcohol – and since we were able to severely restrict firearms in spite of the 2nd Amendment – there should be no legal obstacle to much more stringent regulation.

We also should reject the argument that alcohol is already heavily regulated by both state and federal governments.  This same old tried argument was made by gun rights advocates to oppose the recent gun control measures.  Obviously with so much abuse of alcohol, these laws are not enough.  More must be done to protect the public, especially the children!  (Note to the press:  This is your rallying cry – keep pounding on it.)

We should also reject the argument that more restrictive laws should not be passed because of the unfortunate experience with prohibition.  We have much better technology now, this will allow us to actually control alcohol in many new ways.  Clearly, the fact that a total ban on alcohol failed in the past is completely irrelevant – after all we did not allow the fact that a total gun ban in Jamaica has failed to work after 40 years to stop us from banning many guns, so why should we let our past experience stop us from doing SOMETHING.

Therefore, we propose the following “common sense” restrictions:

First, no one should be permitted to buy alcohol without a license.  After all, we require both drivers and gun owners to have a license – why not those who purchase alcohol?  Every time someone wishes to purchase alcohol at a bar, liquor store or market, they will have to present their license, which will be scanned at the time of purchase.

In order to obtain a license, an applicant will have to pass a criminal background check and take a 10 hour course on responsible alcohol use and the dangers of consuming alcohol.  A standard license will allow the holder to buy beer and wine.  To purchase “hard liquor” the applicant will have to take more classes and post a million bond or provide proof that they have purchased a million dollar liability insurance policy, just like handgun owners.

Second, we should establish a computerized system to track the purchases each license holder makes.  This will enable us to identify those people who may be abusing alcohol.  It will not interfere with the purchases of those who consume alcohol responsibly – but it will enable us to identify abusers, as well as “straw purchasers” who buy alcohol to resell it to prohibited persons such as minors or people identified as abusers.

Third, in order to prevent the abuse of alcohol, anyone identified as an alcoholic will be denied the privilege of purchasing alcohol.  We simply will revoke their license.  We will enforce this through the computerized tracking program.   People who show a pattern of purchases consistent with abuse, will be “cut off”, just as people are at bars when they are drunk.   They would then no longer be able to purchase the booze that fuels their addiction.

Of course, this necessary, common sense system will cost money.  This money will be raised through increased taxes on alcohol and a $250.00 per year license fee.  Of course, this will result in far fewer people buying alcohol – but is this really a problem?  The poor will find it very hard to buy alcohol – but we ask again: Why is this a problem?  If we can restrict an explicitly protected constitutional right (the right to keep and bear arms) by charging a similar fee, why not apply the same principle to the much, much larger problem of  alcohol?

While this system will form the core of our “alcohol control policy”, some additional measures will be needed – specifically we will need to regulate the storage and transfer of alcohol after it leaves the store.

Safe Storage: All alcohol must be stored in a government approved locking cabinet to prevent unauthorized access, especially access by children.  License holders will have to log their consumption and will be required to report any theft of alcohol purchased under their license within 72 hours – and will be subject to prosecution if a minor obtains access.  People who chooses to own this dangerous substance must take responsibility for it.

We will also have to address the issue of “unlicensed bars”, “unlicensed liquor disturbers” and close the “wine tasting” loophole.

Unlicensed bars: We simply cannot allow anyone with a license to purchase booze and serve it to anyone who happens to be a guest in their home – this would defeat our entire alcohol control program.  To prevent this, we will need to require anyone who wants to serve alcohol to their guests – or who wants to purchase more than one fifth of hard liquor or four six packs or bottles of wine per month – to obtain a “home bar license”.    They will have to install a license “card reader” and provide proper storage.  Just as we required gun collectors (who have more than 5 firearms) to submit to unannounced “spot inspections”, we will require the same of home bar license holders.   Remember, we were able to do this to gun owners, so why not home bar owners?

We must also control unlicensed liquor distributors and close the wine tasting loophole.  This can also be accomplished by following the same model we recently used to control guns.  Anyone wishing to give or sell  any amount of alcohol to anyone will have to conduct the transaction through a licensed liquor store.  We also must require wine tasting venues to be licensed and scan the alcohol licenses all participants.  In this way, we can insure that the person receiving the alcohol is legally allowed to do so, and prevent “prohibited persons” from buying alcohol.

This system will save thousands of lives every year.  Of course, the “liquor lobby” is very powerful and many people who consume alcohol will consider this a profound restriction upon their freedoms – but our recent victory over the gun lobby has provided a blueprint for how we can control many areas of our society.  If we can beat the gun lobby, we can accomplish anything.  

In the future we can apply these same principles to controlling religion. (Cults are very destructive – remember Jonestown?  There’s also the matter of encouraging hate.  Not to mention the whole terrorist thing and kids being molested by priests.).  After that, we can look at controlling food so it’s more healthy and requiring people to prove that they are exercising three times per week – that will save even more lives.  Who cares if people loose many of their freedoms, if we can at least promise them increased safety?  I think we are in the majority.


Mayor Michael Bloomberg
Chairman, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Alcohol, Religion, etc
Committee Chairperson

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