Monday, April 15, 2013

Thoughts on the gun debate part seven: Treat guns like cars.

One of the frequent things I hear when discussing the gun control issue with many people is the proposal that we treat guns like cars. Recently, Michael Z. Williamson took a turn at that idea that I want to build on a bit. Let's visit that guns/cars equivalency. Let's turn it around for a moment. There are already rather a lot of gun laws out there which most folks who aren't "gun people" don't know about.  So, let's try the analogy in the other direction; as Mike asked the other day, how about we treat cars like guns?  Here's what would happen if we tried that.


  • Anyone wanting to operate a business selling cars will have to apply to the Federal Bureau of Automobiles, Trucks and Gasoline for a Federal Transport License.  You will have to pass a criminal background check, file your photos and fingerprints and get the approval of your local law enforcement to be allowed to get your license and open your business.  
  • You may only sell cars to people who complete a form and who pass a federal criminal background check.  Certain categories of cars -- two doors, cars with eight cylinder engines, cars painted red, may only be sold to people over 21.  In any case, you may not sell a car to anyone under 18.  You may only sell a car to someone who is a resident of your state.  If you have a car that someone out of state wants to buy, you will have to formally transfer title of that car to a Federal Transport License holder in their state and then that person will charge them a "transfer fee" to transfer the title to the person buying the car.  
  • Certain categories of cars are extremely limited.  "Sports" cars, with features like manual transmissions, gull wing doors and dual exhausts may only be sold to government agencies unless you can prove that the car was built before 1981.  If you have a "grandfathered" car built before 1981 then you have to have a special "Federal Transport License - Sports Car" license to deal in them, and your customer will have to buy a special $2000 tax stamp for each one he wants to buy, and the local police agency will have to approve the purchase, and the customer will have to provide their photo and fingerprints before they are allowed to buy the car.  
  • Some car accessories including turbochargers, superchargers, glass pack mufflers, and tinted glass are restricted similar to the sports car restrictions.  While you can sell new "sports car accessories" to individuals, they are subject to the same taxes and registration and police approval as above. 
  • Owning a "sports car" or a sports car accessory without the special tax stamp and registration is a felony and will result in your losing all your rights to own ANY car or to drive.  
  • If you are convicted of any crime which can be punished by a year in jail (even if you never served a day in jail, if that punishment is possible), or if you were ever had a restraining order against you, even if it was later set aside, or if you were ever involuntarily committed to a hospital or released from the military with a less than honorable discharge, you may not ever own a car or drive one, and it is possible you may not RIDE in one.  
  • Different states have different regulations about getting drivers license, about who may purchase a car, and how many or how frequently you can purchase a car.  
  • Your drivers license from one state may not be recognized by another, and it is entirely your job to inform yourself about the different states rules about car driving and car ownership.  If you attempt to drive your car through another state which does not recognize "personal transportation" as a valid reason for owning and using a car instead of taking public transport, your car may be seized and you may be charged with a felony. If you drive your car through a state which does not recognize your states driver's license, you may be charged with a felony. If convicted, you lose all rights to ever own or drive a car anywhere.  
  • In some states, in addition to a driver's license, you will have to have a "car operators identification card" which you must present in order to buy gasoline or oil or the services of a car wash. 
Ok, that's enough.  Let's try going the other way.  How about we treat guns like cars?  
  • Anyone of any age may buy any gun at any time.  There is no background check. 
  • A concealed carry license is available in every state with the assumption that any largely normal and competent teenager can complete the well defined test and receive a license. 
  • A concealed carry license issued by any state is completely and automatically reciprocal with every other state and many foreign countries.  
  • Guns for concealed carry use may be required to pass certain standards of construction and safety just like cars which are tagged for use on public roads may have to meed certain safety and environmental regulations, however..... 
  • Guns not intended for use "in public" as a concealed carry gun may have absolutely any features and may be modified in any way by anyone as long as they are not used "in public" but are restricted to private lands and ranges just like you can make indy-cars, monster trucks, swamp buggies, dragsters etc... which have no title, no registration and are not subject to the rules for cars used on the public roads.  
  • A person found carrying a gun not licensed or approved for concealed carry will be subject to a fine ONLY, exactly like a person driving an unregistered or uninspected car.  
  • No license is required to purchase guns, nor is a license required to keep and use guns other than concealed carry in public -- exactly like a twelve year old can run a truck or tractor around on the farm without a license.  As long as the tractor stays off the public roads, it's not subject to road rules, similarly as long as a gun isn't used for concealed carry it's not subject to "carry rules."  You can buy all the cars you want, you can buy all the trucks, tractors, golf carts etc, and store them in a museum or a warehouse or run them around on a track on your private land, and they need never be registered or tagged or pass inspection.  Similarly, you can do the exact same with guns.  
That's what you get if you want to treat guns like cars.  Are you up for it?  

And before you get all upset with me at the idea, let's recall a few numbers....  

U.S. for 2010, there were 31,513 deaths from firearms, distributed as follows by mode of death: Suicide 19,308; Homicide 11,015; Accident 600, so here's our first number: 

2010 Non Suicide Gun Deaths:  11,615

Meanwhile the CDC gives us our other number:  

2010 Non Suicide Car Deaths: 32,788

So why is it we regulate guns more?  Right, I know your answer: "There are far more cars and drivers than gun owners, and so it's more appropriate to regulate them.  

In 2010, there were approximately 200 million licensed drivers in the US.  The death rate from cars then was around 16 deaths per 100,000 licensed drivers.  

In 2010 there were approximately 80 million gun owners in the US.  The death rate from guns (excluding suicides) then was around 14 per 100,000 gun owners. 

Gun owners (and their guns) are safer than drivers.  

We actually can go one better than that.  Most states report revocations of concealed carry licenses giving the reason for the revocation.  Any conviction of any crime with the POTENTIAL of more than one year in jail causes the loss of a license.  (Wow, if that were true of cars....  nevermind.) So, we can look at the criminal conviction rate of concealed carry holders vs the criminal conviction rate of drivers.  Without boring you with the sources, it works out to carry license holders having a criminal conviction rate about 1/70th the rate of drivers.  

Of course, drivers don't have to be fingerprinted, get a criminal background check or risk loss of license for small errors (like accidentally driving where they're not allowed.) 

Still, here's my conclusion:  

Sure, let's treat guns like cars.  If you can agree to the seven bullet points above, I'll back you and even go along with working for legislation to that effect.  You still up for it?  
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