There’s a popular analogy going around that tries to link guns and cars. “You need a license to drive a car!” gun control advocates scream, “and it needs to be registered! Why not do the same thing with dangerous guns? It’s only common sense!” It’s a line so popular that even a wolf in sheep’s clothing at Guns & Ammo fell for it. But if you actually take a second and dissect that argument, it completely falls apart of its own weight. Guns are, in fact, already far more heavily regulated that cars. In fact, treating guns like cars would require a reduction in regulation, not an increase. So, let’s take a peek at the truth behind these claims . . .
“All cars need to be registered, we should do the same thing with guns!” That’s the statement parroted by gun grabbers, including certain members of my family. And yet…
Let’s look at racing cars, for example. I’m sure that we can all agree that race cars are, in fact, cars. But while they have four wheels, an engine and some seats, they aren’t registered. They aren’t “street legal,” meaning that if you even tried to take them out on the road you’d be pulled over and ticketed. For this reason, they’re run only on either on private property or dedicated race tracks, neither of which require a registration tag for the car or license plates.
It isn’t only race cars that don’t have to be registered. On farms and ranches all across America you’ll find vehicles that were either never registered or whose registration has long since expired. And they never leave the property. There was a 1968 GMC Jimmy back at the Boy Scout camp I worked at a few summers during high school that was purchased specifically for the camp and never even had a single set of license plates. All of these cars exist and are owned completely 100% legally without registration.
For firearms, the vast and overwhelming majority live the same life. They exist only in the homes of their owners, on a firing range, or in other words on “private property.” Therefore the analogy of car registration is misleading and false, since while car registration only applies to those cars using the public roads the gun control advocates want universal registration of every firearm in the United States. No matter where they are. If the same thing were attempted with cars, the outcry would be deafening.
However, unlike cars, some firearms that politicians believe are “incredibly dangerous” are indeed registered whether or not they’re carried in public. Machine guns, silencers, short-barreled rifles and other NFA items are required to be registered solely because they exist. And while if the registration lapses on your vehicle you can re-register it at no penalty, if you lose the registration papers for your silencer, a felony charge is in your future. Sports cars don’t require registration, but machine guns do. And yet, the last time a legal machine gun was used anywherein a murder was 1994 — by a cop. Go figure.
“You need a driver’s license to buy or drive a car! You should need the same thing for firearms!” Again, another justification for the FOID cards in Illinois or the pistol permits in New York. But, again, it’s a false analogy.
Just as cars that never leave private property don’t need to be registered, people who drive cars on private property don’t need a driver’s license. They’re only needed for those venturing out onto the public streets, and anyone – of any age – can operate a motor vehicle on private land. In the same way, the vast majority of guns are only used while on private property and transported from home to the range unloaded (i.e., not in use). So while it might seem to make a glimmer of sense at first glance, the reality is that requiring a firearm owner’s card for simply owning a firearm isn’t remotely the same thing as requiring a driver’s license for driving a car on the road.
In reality, there already is an equivalent to the driver’s license. Each state sets their own qualifications for who needs a driver’s license and what types of vehicles need what kind of license. In the same way those who carry guns on their person in public are already licensed in the same fashion. Here in Texas, carrying a handgun on your own property is perfectly legal without a license, but the moment you venture out into public you need to have taken a class and passed a test to carry that same gun. It’s the same thing as requiring a driver’s license for people driving in public. And just as with the driver’s license, each state sets their own requirements for who qualifies for a license and what kind of activity is legal. Some states allow right turns on red and some states allow the open carry of long guns without a license.
Actually, come to think of it, I’d like it if this aspect of guns were treated as if it were cars we were talking about. I can use my driver’s license in any state in the union, and the “full faith & credit” clause of the Constitution means that it’s valid. I don’t need to double check if my Texas driver’s license is valid in New York, and I don’t need an out-of-state driver’s license to drive a car in Massachusetts. But for concealed carry licenses, that’s exactly the case. If concealed carry licenses were treated like driver’s licenses things would make a whole lot more sense to me.
Speaking of people without a driver’s license, while some dealers will require it, you do not need a driver’s license to buy a car. Any dealer is able to sell a car to someone without a driver’s license, but it becomes illegal the second you drive it off the lot and onto the public street. In the same way, private party car sales are indeed a thing that people do, and don’t go through a dealer and don’t require registration.
The Cold Hard Legal and Mathematical Truth
The car analogy only works for people who don’t understand the reality of gun laws or vehicle laws in the United States. If all you know about guns is what Rachel Maddow tells you, then sure it makes perfect sense. But in reality, the car analogy (used to advocate for stricter gun control, at least) is illogical and irrelevant. And to cap it all off, this last statement is all that you really should need to know the difference:
There is no statement in the Bill of Rights that gives you the right to drive a car, but there is one for keeping and bearing arms.
The words “shall not be infringed” are pretty clear to me, and while I may be the most liberal guy on TTAG’s staff even I only bend so far as to be OK with a quick and paper trail free verification of someone’s identity and non-felon status before a firearms sale. Anything more, in my opinion, is an infringement on those rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Even then, it would still be easier to buy and own a car than to own a gun.
Cars kill more people than guns every single year (excluding suicides), and yet guns are more heavily regulated. Does that sound like “common sense” to you?
Want a bullet point list? Here it is:
- Car dealers don’t need to be licensed by the federal government. Gun dealers do.
- Car dealers don’t need to keep meticulous records of all transactions under penalty of law. Gun dealers do.
- Cars don’t require registration to own or licensing to operate. Neither do guns.
- Cars can legally be sold across state lines. Selling a gun across state lines is a felony.
- Driver’s licenses are valid in all states. Concealed carry licenses aren’t.
- I don’t need to tell the ATF when I take my short wheel-base car to another state. I do need to tell them when I take my SBR hunting rifle.
- Cars aren’t banned just because they look scary. “Assault weapons” are.
- I get a tax credit when I buy certain cars. I don’t get a tax credit for my new hunting rifle.
Come to think of it, we should be using the car analogy ourselves. I want firearms to be regulated just like cars. It’s only common sense!