Does not compute

The New York City Council proposes to ban realistic-looking toy guns. (Since 1998, NYPD officers have shot twelve people holding what turned out to be toy guns; there’s no count of how many people with toy guns got shot by non-cops.) The Manhattan Libertarian Party decides to protest by handing out toy guns in East Harlem, a Latino neighborhood. A number of East Harlemites aren’t happy. (If the law passes, the children could be arrested for possessing the toys the Libertarians were handing out.) Some of the kids to whom the guns are given smash them. One local politician suggests that the Libertarians — of whom apparently none are from East Harlem — hand out toy guns in their own neighborhoods.

This strikes the usually acute Dr. Manhattan as an instance of racism. So far, he and I agree.

But he thinks the label applies to the behavior of the community leadership, rather than the folks who came into a neighborhood inhabited by people who don’t look like them to hand out what the locals, who probably know the local conditions better than outsiders do, think are dangerous toys.

Shouldn’t the decision about whether the children of East Harlem have about-to-be-banned toy guns be made by the parents of those children, rather than by the Libertarian Party?

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: