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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

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  1. i like and support bruce’s take on treating guns like driving with the ed courses at school etc. and since i live in ca and drive on it’s freeways i’d also like that hood thingy in the picture that goes up.

  2. Where can I buy that five barrel chrome bad-boy gun to pop-up from underneath my car’s hood? Do I need to get a special vehicle CC permit to mount it and how many round magazines are available?

  3. Best article in a LONG time! And the bar was already set pretty high here. Kudos, Bruce!

  4. One way to stop accidental gun injuries is by realizing that the end with the hole is the end where the projectile comes out. And yes anti-gun people I realize it is difficult to figure that out but we have to try.

  5. Lets say all non-military firearms-related deaths since 1900 are around one million. One million lives is evidently “the cost of freedom” for the last hundred and change years according to lunatic math in this case.

    Freedom in the context of WWI and WWII cost us over 70 million lives. Compared with that, non-war firearms-related deaths are a rounding error.

    This “cost of X” logic is idiotic. But, whatever, I’ll take a box of AT4s for the 4th of July, please.

  6. Well put. Do you think there will be any father and son teams spending hours in the garage trying to part together classic gun chassis for the son’s first carry piece?

  7. Sure, let’s treat guns like automobiles. I have a military grade automobile on my ranch that has a full capacity fuel tank. I don’t have a registration (it’s only used on private property) It’s not insured (again, it’s only operated on private property), I don’t need a license to operate it (because, fvck you, it’s my private property), I don’t need permission or some special law to allow me to transport it across state lines, and I can operate it on public property (without license or registration) in an emergency, so, ok, let’s treat firearms and automobiles the same. Oh, BTW, I paid cash for it and I didn’t have to fill out a 4473 or show ID.

  8. BRILLIANT! I’ve never seen that argument dismantled so elegantly and completely. And not just dismantled, but fully thought out as what it really is: a blueprint that places guns right at the center of a healthy society.

    A friend of mine wrote a novel about what might happen if firearms were actually successfully banned. (“We The Enemy”; I highly recommend it.) The story takes an anti-gun tack, but it’s honest about human nature. Its fictional utopia may be gun-free, but it’s not “weapon-free.” In fact, everyone is *required* to carry effective nonlethal defensive weapons and empowered to use them, which in turn makes violent crime wither and practically disappear.

    I’ve often wondered about that scenario — humanity being what it is, crime will never really go away, but it seems to me that universal armament, with peaceful people being fully empowered to protect themselves and violent people being so massively outgunned they’re guaranteed to fail , might be the only reasonable way to create a truly peaceful society. It wouldn’t deter the real nutjobs, of course, but it could mitigate the damage they do when they go off. And in the meantime, maybe everyone would actually be safer.

  9. “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.”

    A good article overall, but I have to take issue with your rebuttal to Mr. Larson’s point above. My understanding is that it is the owner’s insurance that pays in the event of property damage caused by the owner’s property (regardless of whether or not the owner was the one using the property at the time). I am speaking of the liability aspect of insurance, not collision or comprehensive. There are some exceptions in some states if the property was used without the owner’s consent. If I let my friend borrow my car and he runs a stop sign and hits another car, he will get a ticket. However, it will be my insurance that pays for the damages, not his (he doesn’t even have to have any to drive). I can also be personally sued by the offended property owner. They can also sue my friend. If we applied Mr. Larson’s point above to guns, then if someone had possession of my gun with my consent or due to my negligence and then used it improperly, sure they will get the criminal charge, but I can be held financially liable, i.e. lawsuits (and possibly criminally to the extent of my negligence). If anyone on here knows different, please correct me.

    • Excellent point Charles; I was thinking strictly of the criminal liability aspect but you are absolutely right about the financial liability. In addition I think David is saying that the owner should be held responsible for its illicit use; i.e. if one of my kid’s friends steals a pistol and shoots someone with it.

      Thanx for the feedback; reasoned criticism and debate is one of the best ways to hone our arguments.

  10. Before we all break a bone clapping ourselves on the back for being soooooo clever, where in the Bill of Rights does it mention driving.

    • Ninth Amendment: The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

      Not that SCOTUS or legislatures ever pay any attention to it . . .

  11. Bruce,

    Just curious, where did you get the 70% stat in regards to the percentage of homicides being criminal on criminal violence. Is this just a reasoned number or is based on some data?


    • It is the aggregate of several numbers I have read: according to this piece between 54 and 73% of victims were felons. Guncite also has some good numbers here.
      I know I have seen more specific figures, but I can’t locate them at the moment; sorry.

  12. 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’.

    I think you meant to say “will not” rather than “will”, otherwise spot on.

  13. Mr. Larson is one of these folks who put out an idea, thinking it’s original and will solve the problem, nearly completely and perfectly. Unfortunately, this one is one that has been kicked around for years and if our legislators ever try to implement something like it, they will have a really tough time trying to iron out all the details. It will be as big as Obamacare and as complex and also ineffective in combatting crime and “gun violence”. The term “gun violence”, by the way I believe was coined because to most liberals the “bang” or “boom” is violent and may cause a violent reaction in the hearer.
    I personally would rather hear a gun boom that be hit by a baseball bat any day.
    Anyway we can add Mr. Larson’s idea to the trash heap of ideas on solving the so-called gun problems. As one spokesperson for the Brady Bunch said some years ago when asked if the assault weapons ban would diminish crime, she said “I don’t know but let’s pass it and find out”. This approach can be used to “solve” a lot of problems. Trouble is, once these things are passed it’s like changing Mother Nature to get rid of them. Hang in there, Larson, you may hit on a new idea some day.

  14. Treat guns like cars.

    You overlook other motor vehicles in your proposal. Motorcycles!
    For a few thousand dollars you can buy a used motorcycle that is faster than anything but an ulta expensive exotic car. You can conceal a motorcycle in a van. In some states you do not have to register off-road motorcycles, and you do not have to register motorcycles (or cars) that you do not use. The American Motorcycle Association has racing for kids as young as 4 years old.

  15. “the Sikh Temple victims… were all disarmed by force of law”
    In WI, churches are not statutorially prohibited places, like prisons, secure mental health facilities, courts.
    So the only thing disarming those people was their own ignorance of the laws.
    From what I’ve seen, they weren’t even posted.
    And Sikhs have been known as fierce fighters, so it’s not their religion that’s the problem.

  16. For those that truly want to treat firearms like cars, I offer:

    Do I need the governments permission to buy a car? No.

    Do I need to buy the car from only certain people with licenses to sell cars? No.

    Can I buy as many cars as I want each week/month/year? Yes

    Can I buy small cars, big cars, slow cars, fast cars, cars that look dangerous? Yes

    Can I buy Hummers virtually identical to the ones the troops use? Yes.

    Do I have to wait from 5 to 15 days to pick up my car? No

    If I traded in one car for a newer model do I still have to wait five to ten days to pick the new one up? No

    Can I modify my car to allow more fuel, more performance, or better cornering? Yes

    Would I have to turn over to the government without compensation some models of automobiles that might be banned years after I buy them? No

    Do I need a license to buy a car? No
    (in most states)

    Can I buy a car at age 16? Yes.

    Are driving lessons mandated in most high schools? Yes

    Can I buy a car from anyone in any state? Yes.

    Can I sell my car to anyone in any state? Yes

    Can convicted felons buy, own or drive a car? Yes

    In some places (e.g. NYC or New Jersey) would I first need a permit to buy from the police department which sometimes takes up to 2 years to obtain? No

    In some cities (e.g. Washington D.C.) would I have to store my car partially disassembled? No

    Do I need to register a car that I own? No (as long as I keep it on my own property)

    Do I need a background check or waiting period to buy a car? No

    Is my car held responsible if I misuse it? No

    Would failure to register my car be a federal felony (prevents me from owning another one)? No

    Do I need to “safe store” my car even though many are stolen and used for criminal purposes? No

    Will I lose my driver’s license if I violate the law with my car? Most likely not

    Can I legally drive my car into ANY state/city in the nation with EVERY jurisdiction honoring my registration/license? Yes

    Shall I go on? Or do you really, really want to treat guns like cars?

  17. Actually since cars kill far more people than guns each year (I guess some inanimate objects are simply more evil than others), it would make more sense to treat cars like guns. No transfer of ownership of the car until the new owner has passed a background check, relicensing every couple of years to make sure you’re not crazy or a felon, all car transfers ownership need to go through FCL (Federal Car Licensor), automatic denial of ownership or driving of any car under any circumstance if you have previously been convicted of a DUI or maybe just haven’t paid your parking tickets, fingerprinting, sworn statements and so forth.

    Yes! Everyone in favor of car control please raise your right arm!

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