Friday, June 16, 2006

Guns, Gambling, and Washington State

It’s time to step out of my office, come up for air, enjoy the rare sunshine, and see what’s going on in the world. Hmm…I see we won another victory. Louisiana Governor Katherine Blanco signed a new law stopping local and state police from confiscating firearms in an emergency no matter how much they might want to. Yay for our side.

Then I found something that makes me want to crawl back into my office and pull my spreadsheets and Word docs back over my head. It’s not about guns, it’s about freedom from Nanny State. Because too many states and localities want to nanny us about guns, I guess in a way it’s about guns too.

I’ve mentioned Washington state’s law forbidding online gambling. Part of the law makes it illegal to even link to an online gambling site. Despite obvious First Amendment problems, Washington state is going to prosecute someone who blogged about online casinos and provided links and advertisements.

It seems that even the Seattle newspaper, which runs a poker column, may run afoul of the law. A columnist discusses it at length and finds that he may also be committing a crime. I found the editorial on Radley Balko of the Agitator and here’s a big hat tip.

What is it with these damn nannies? I don’t know and I don’t care if this law came about because of right-wing or left-wing moralists. The right wants us to live a moral life according to their Biblical interpretation du jour. The left wants to create a utopia where we all care and share. After all, dude, how caring and sharing is spending your money on selfish pursuits such as poker when that money could best be used to provide health care to the poor undocumented workers or a living wage to all.

The religious right does it to please God. The left does it because they want to live your life for you. I believe the left is now taking on online gambling even more than the right. Here’s a long article on a college kid who royally screwed up his life when he became an online gambling junkie. It’s in the New York Times, hardly a bastion of conservative religious morality.

I own guns, I gamble occasionally in casinos, and I play penny-ante games in an online poker site (here’s my gratuitous link that may send Washington state into a fit and I'm not sure it works because my employer's net nanny blocks it, grrr).

A few people can’t handle gambling and even fewer people abuse guns, but that gives no would-be nanny the right to live my life for me. Instead, people who abuse guns criminally should be locked away for crimes they commit with a gun. People who become addicted to gambling, alcohol, drugs, bubblegum music need help.

Here’s something Washington state and would-be nannies need to understand: If you prohibit something you drive it underground and you no longer have any control over it. If an activity is legal, a state can regulate it provided the regulations are not so onerous as to create a black market.

Look at guns. I think there’s too much regulation, but still I can buy a gun with relatively little hassle and I’m not driven to a black market. Look at alcohol. When it was prohibited, criminal bootleggers flourished and people still got their drinkies, but the state received no tax money and bootleggers could sell to children if they wanted to—sort of like illegal drugs now.

So for guns, let’s roll back some of the regulations—take your pick I have my ideas. For Internet gambling let the nannies, if they really want to, dream up a few reasonable regulations for online casinos designed to protect players. Such regulations would ensure an honest game, protect player accounts, and enforce age requirements.

Of course, I could be all wet. Maybe Washington state only wants to protect its own gambling monopoly such as the lottery. But, no that would be cynical.

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