Sex, Drugs, Alcohol, Gambling, and Guns: The Synergistic Constitutional Effects

25 Pages Posted: 13 Mar 2013 Last revised: 15 Apr 2014

David B. Kopel

Independence Institute; Denver University - Sturm College of Law

Trevor Burrus

Cato Institute

Date Written: June 28, 2013


In this Article we discuss the synergistic relationship between the “wars” on guns, alcohol, sex, and gambling and how that relationship has helped illegitimately increase the power of the federal government over the past century. The Constitution never granted Congress the general “police power” to legislate on health, safety, welfare, and morals; the police power was reserved to the States. Yet over the last century, federal laws against guns, alcohol, gambling, and some types of sex, have encroached on the police powers traditionally reserved to the states. Congress’s infringement of the States’ powers over the “health, safety, welfare, and morals” of their citizens occurred slowly, with only intermittent resistance from the courts. In no small part due to this synergistic relationship, today we have a federal government that has become unmoored from its constitutional boundaries and legislates recklessly over the health, safety, welfare, and morals of American citizens.

Keywords: constitutional law, guns, police power, taxing clause, interstate commerce clause, civil asset forfeiture, drug war

Suggested Citation

Kopel, David B. and Burrus, Trevor, Sex, Drugs, Alcohol, Gambling, and Guns: The Synergistic Constitutional Effects (June 28, 2013). Albany Government Law Review, vol. 6, no. 2 (2013), pages 306-331. Available at SSRN:

David B. Kopel

Independence Institute ( email )

727 East 16th Ave
Denver, CO 80203
United States
303-279-6536 (Phone)
303-279-4176 (Fax)


Denver University - Sturm College of Law

2255 E. Evans Avenue
Denver, CO 80208
United States


Trevor Burrus (Contact Author)

Cato Institute ( email )

1000 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20001-5403
United States

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