Gun Owner Protection: Treating Guns Like Cars

A couple of weeks ago, in the aftermath of a couple of prominent mass shootings, David Larson of Albert Lea, MN asked “Don’t gun owners want protection?” Well of course we do David! This “we” in particular would like protection from blood-dancing opportunists who attempt to use tragedies like the Tucson, Aurora or VA Tech shootings to push an anti-gun, anti-gun-owner agenda. But I don’t think that’s exactly what David meant . . .

Although it is not true that I am “bemoaning” the Second Amendment (I support it), nor am I blaming guns for the violence (I recommend it be the owners who are held responsible), Doug seemed to completely miss my point: As we enjoy this freedom, we should acknowledge that the freedom is not free — it costs us more than 80 innocent deaths per day, the equivalent of 47 Aurora tragedies every week.

You know David, merely repeating a lie does not make it true. It’s true that if you go to the CDC’s WISQARS website and look at all firearm related deaths between 1999 and 2009 you’ll get 332,811 which works out to 82.9 per day. But . . . that includes suicides and, as numerous studies have shown, suicide rates are independent of method. In other words if ‘access’ to guns is restricted, the firearm suicide rate may drop, but overall suicide rates typically remain unchanged. So if we pull out the 189,014 suicides from that 11 year period we get 35.8 firearm related deaths or less than half of your “innocent deaths per day” number.

I’d also quibble with your characterization of all murder victims as “innocent” since about 70% of those victims are felons and the vast majority of their deaths are related to the illegal drug trade. Now if you want to talk about legalizing drugs as a means of combating “gun violence” I am right there with you, but that’s another discussion for another blog.

Back to those “innocent” victims, though. With 129,797 homicide victims if 70% are criminals reaping the fruits of their criminality, that would leave us with about 13.2 “innocent victims per day”. Is that too many? Of course it is. Ideally there would be no murder, but this is an imperfect world with a whole lot of imperfect people in it.

Now that the number crunching is done, we’re left with 7 and not 47 “Aurora tragedies” a week. But that raises another question: The Aurora victims, like the Sikh Temple victims, like the University of Alabama victims, like the Fort Hood victims, like the TSU victims, like the Binghamton, NY victims, like the VA Tech victims, etc. were all disarmed by force of law. So how many of those 13.2 “innocent victims” would have been saved had they had a gun of their own?

And yes, I am including the accidental shooting deaths in that query, because people who have guns of their own are, more often than not, well practice gun safety and are thus far less likely to accidentally shoot someone or to be shot themselves. I know that sounds ludicrous, how can a familiarity with firearms and firearm safety protect you from a bullet? Simple; if you are aware of the rules of gun safety, how likely are you to stick around with stupid people doing stupid things in stupid places?

David then trots out the classic “treat guns like cars” analogy:

As a nation, we have been smart enough to realize the high cost of not demanding responsibility from car owners, and therefore have placed requirements on vehicle ownership for the safety of all Americans. It makes sense that we pay the same respect to neighbors when it comes to gun ownership.

It might surprise my regular readers to find out that I am completely in agreement with this: by all means, let’s treat guns like cars.

Once we start treating guns like cars, gun safety and handling courses will be available to all students 15 and over in the public schools, and kids will be encouraged to take Carriers’ Ed classes. Also, when they turn 15 they will be eligible for their learner’s carry permit which will allow them to tote a gun as long as they’re under the supervision of a licensed adult.

Parents will be especially happy because when kids take the class, Mom and Dad will get a break on their homeowner’s insurance premiums. And a natural spin-off of this state of affairs will be that schools and employers will routinely provide convenient, safe gun storage for students and employees (just as they do now with parking lots).

Naturally, when someone turns 16 they’ll go right down to the local cop shop to get their license to carry. They’ll take the written and practical tests and, whether they took Carriers’ Ed or not, if they pass the tests they’ll pay their fee ($20 – $50 unless you are on the upper East Coast who must print theirs on titanium and charge $50 – $100) get their license on the spot. Needless to say about 90% of teens will get their license the first or second time they take the test. These proud new carriers can then go out and buy their first carry gun. Heck, if Mom and Dad can afford it some kids will get their first firearm as a 16th birthday present.

This also means that a permit to carry will be valid in every state in the country and mala prohibita restrictions on possession and carrying (ammo restrictions, magazine capacity limits, Evil Black Rifle bans, etc.) must be clearly posted throughout the jurisdiction (just as speed limit and stop signs are now). In the event that you do wind up with a violation, it can almost always be dealt with by paying a relatively small fine (either by mail or in person) and won’t involve lawyers, court appearances, the possibility of jail time or even loss of your heater. Likewise a cop can’t just arbitrarily stop you and ask to see your license, absent an underlying visible violation.

This new scheme will be a boon to entrepreneurs who will be able to invent, manufacture and/or sell any sort of gun or accessory they think customers will buy. There will be a local, state or federal agencies that can come in and arbitrarily shut a dealer down because when filling out a form a customer accidentally entered a ‘Y’ in the box instead of writing out ‘Yes’. In fact, there won’t be any legal requirement to maintain any sort of records at all.

With the “register ‘em like cars” plan, anyone can walk into a gun dealer, plunk down some cash and walk out with any gun they want, no questions asked (besides name and address for the registration, of course). Registration fees will be minimal (no more than 1% of the weapon’s value) and will be used to build, maintain and upgrade public shooting ranges that are widely available and free to use. And if you are only going to be using the weapon on private property you don’t need to register it at all and it won’t need to be “street legal.” That means silencers, machine guns, mortars, bazookas, RPGs, MANPADS, etc. will be A-Ok.

But somehow I don’t think that’s what David has in mind even though it’s perfectly in line with his “protecting gun owners” concept. David, of course, really doesn’t mean that guns should be treated like cars.

As a start, the following actions do not deny citizens the right to own guns, honoring the Second Amendment, but do help us all remain responsible for our ownership, as with those that own cars:

1. Require background checks for legal violations and physical/mental disabilities for those buying guns to better insure public safety.

Um, David, can you please tell me one single solitary state in the union that requires such checks before someone buys a car?

2. Require each gun owner register (“title”) their gun at each point of sale so that the owner can be held responsible for its use if it causes damage to others.

Dave, can you please tell me one single solitary state in the union which holds car owners responsible for damage done to others? The car driver, yes; the owner not so much. But then he goes back to more car-like demands:

3. Have each gun owner receive training and pass a test to show they have the ability to use their gun safely, and receive a license that confirms that fact.

See above about the 90% pass rate and fees.

4. Require each gun owner to buy liability insurance to cover any damage to others in the event their gun hurts someone (outside of protecting the “security of the free state”).

Given that the freedom to own and carry the weapon of your choice is a natural, fundamental, and inalienable human, individual, civil and Constitutional right — subject neither to the democratic process nor to arguments grounded in social utility, I’m not sure an insurance requirement is, you know, Constitutional. But hey, let’s say it is. Basic coverage on my car runs about $45/month and I drive it an average of two hours every day, so that’s $0.75 per hour of operation. I’m willing to pony up $0.75 a year to cover a gun that I might shoot (outside of practice) once every 50 years.

Finally, Dave brings the snark:

Surely Doug would not have any objection to helping provide safety to his fellow Americans while he enjoys his freedom of gun ownership. What do you say, Doug, are you willing to join me in this effort?

I dunno David, are you willing to join me in my efforts to get guns treated like cars?


[1] L. Neil Smith: Letter to a Liberal Colleague