Before the CSI Effect--The Miami Vice Effect


The wailing and gnashing of teeth this week over the “CSI Effect” in the Casey Anthony trial got me to thinking.  In case you were under a rock, or stationed in Iraq, this week Casey Anthony’s not guilty verdict has been blamed on a lack of hard forensic evidence. The theory is that the jurors today expect solid proof based on high tech scientific stuff like you see on the CSI shows, dubbed the “CSI Effect”. Now I am not going to weigh in on that whole debacle, it has been done to death.  But it reminded me of a syndrome that I decried in the wilderness many years ago. The “Miami Vice Effect”!

I would never ask you to admit publically, that you watched Miami Vice regularly, but I must confess back in the 80’s I was glued to my TV every Friday night.  Hey, fast cars, fast guns, good looking women, and a back drop of cutting edge music, what’s not to like.  What’s not to like was the unintended consequences.  Soccer Moms, politicians, and much of the general public didn’t understand that, like CSI, this was entertainment and not reality.  I can’t recall ever seeing an “alleged” drug dealer or other assorted bad guy with a handgun. Nope, they always had a full auto Uzi, AK-47, or on occasion an M-60.  So the natural assumption is that is reality. 

Now smart knowledgeable people, like you, know that you can’t conceal an AK-47 with a 30 round magazine sticking out of it.  It can’t be done with all the layers we wear here in Minnesota, so it certainly can not be done with normal Miami attire.  Moreover, smart folks know that since 1938, average citizens can’t own full auto weapons, hence they are not readily available. But perception is reality and law enforcement (Crockett and Tubbs) appeared out gunned. If they weren’t so darn good with their Bren 10mm, 38 revolver, and sawed off shotgun, it could have been ugly. 

During Miami Vice’s heyday I was retailing firearms in, of all places, the People’s Republic of New Jersey!  That state has more gun laws than there are exits on the Turnpike and the Parkway combined.  They had an assault rifle ban that outlawed rifles that had such threatening things as pistol grips, ventilated hand guards, and bayonet lugs.  I used to like to ask the lawmakers to tell me the last time someone had been bayoneted in New Jersey.  They never had an answer, so I would speculate that it was The Battle of Trenton on December 26, 1776.  That law banned many innocuous things like M-1 Carbines, and had no grandfather clause.  Law abiding citizens had to get the banned guns out of the state in so many days.  It was unconstitutional, and eventually went away.

But it begs the question, how many gun laws are on the books that came as a result of  the Hollywood perception of  crew-served weapon toting drug dealers.  I guess a belt fed M-60 is more sensational than a Browning High Power  9mm pistol. Of course the late Senator Patrick Moynihan had done his homework, and knew that gangster rappers always talked about their “nines” (9mm handguns).  Moreover, studies showed that the 9mm pistol was the weapon of choice of the drug dealers.  This led to the late senator considering to purpose a ban on the manufacture/sale/possession of 9mm ammunition.

This was straight from George Carlin’s joking suggestion that we don’t ban guns, just ban bullets. George was kidding, the senator was not.  Did he really think that if they couldn’t get 9mm guns they would go unarmed? Really? 

Not to mention that you could take it one step further.  At that same time, BMWs were the undisputed vehicle of choice of drug dealers. Therefore shouldn’t we have banned those as well?  So then the drug dealers would have to walk everywhere and be unarmed.  This would give the law enforcement a big advantage! Fortunately, Senator Moynihan’s idea was never taken to fruition, and for one rare occasion, common sense prevailed. Imagine that!

Coming back to the “CSI Effect”, I would like to be optimistic. It is a shame that, by all appearances, in the Anthony case, justice was not served. However, I would like to believe that some ‘would be’ criminals don’t commit crimes, because they fear being caught by a CSI goober with an ultraviolent light and an aerosol can.  But I could be wrong. 

Jun 27, 2022 11:30 AM ET