Yesterday, California State Senator Leland Yee was arrested on a slew of charges, from corruption to arms trafficking, at his home. Yee’s arrest comes after a multi-year sting by the FBI, which was investigating the Senator Yee and Raymond Chow, a man who was reported to be the ringleader of a Chinese syndicate.
The details of the depth of Yee’s alleged corruption are startling, if found to be fact. According to the San Jose Mercury News, “Yee was engaged in the secretive meetings, at one point telling an undercover operative with whom he was trying to cut an arms deal that he was ready to cash in on his connections in Asia if he lost his current bid to become secretary of state, according to court papers.” All of this—the firearms trafficking, money laundering, murder-for-hire, drug distribution, trafficking in contraband cigarettes and “honest services” fraud—was all allegedly done because Yee landed himself into $70,000 of debt after losing his last election and was attempting to secure political donations in return for favors—like arranging gun trading deals.
The kicker here? Yee was one of California’s most ardent advocates for government transparency, and, you guessed it, gun control. In an interview with KPIX5 in San Francisco, he said, “This is not an easy issue. But I am a father, and I want our communities to be safe, and god forbid if one of these weapons fell into the wrong hands.”
I guess he felt that the Chinese syndicate in the area weren’t such bad guys after all? Hope his children feel safe.
This could really be the plot of some kind of really bad Batman film. In fact, it might have been. I could, theoretically, put on my tinfoil hat and ask just how deep the rabbit hole goes—perhaps Yee supported gun control legislation because he knew that doing so would raise the price of firearms and, thus, his lucrative backroom dealings would be more profitable. However, there is no evidence to substantiate that claim as of yet, so I’ll leave that kind of thinking to Alex Jones.
But I will say here that the kinds of offers Yee made were possible only because of the kinds of laws that he supported. Gun control activists, take note: Prohibition simply does not work, and all Yee’s arrest does is show that to be true more than it already was.
All prohibition accomplishes is that it forces the prohibited goods onto a black market which then can be traded without any kind of oversight or regulation—governmental or otherwise. Those who deal in black market goods create syndicates, like the ones Chow is rumored to have lead. In order to gain power and influence, syndicates need insiders in government. And there are always, always people like Yee who need something from them and don’t care what they have to sell to get it.
And prohibition makes that trade all the more lucrative for everyone involved. It creates a cash crop for corrupt politicians like Yee to draw from when they’re desperate, and the result is a public official who must ultimately answer to people who don’t much care for the rule of law.
Leland Yee is responsible for his own actions, but what Californians must ask themselves next is not necessarily what to do with their politician, but what to do about the laws that made what he did possible—most importantly, how to fix them.