Fayetteville, AR – -(AmmoLand.com)- One of the favorite rhetorical tropes of gun control advocates is to draw a comparison between how we treat the ownership and operation of cars and guns. The essence of the argument is that we allow people to own and use cars while regulating their use and designs, so gun control regulation will work and doesn’t have to be a disaster for gun rights.
There are a number of flaws with this line of reasoning. While I would say that freedom of movement is a fundamental right, the Constitution doesn’t enumerate it for protection, unlike gun rights. Driving is an activity done on public roads for the most part, whereas gun possession is mostly something carried on in one’s home or on one’s person. And categorically, guns and cars are not the same things. A gun is a tool for one set of tasks, which includes fighting. A car is also a tool, but its function is for another set of purposes, and the two sets have little overlap.
That being said, it is worth taking the argument as it is and seeing if it can stand on its own terms. One of the implied claims is that we gun owners should have to obtain a license not only to carry but also to own firearms, the notion being that a license to drive makes the act of using an automobile safer and by comparison, the same would be true with guns.
Does a requirement to have a driver’s license to operate a vehicle on the roads increase safety?
That is the claim that has been made throughout the history of such licenses, and the same offenders in violating gun rights—New York, New Jersey, and Illinois—led the way in driving control. There is a good reason to believe that being careful about letting teenagers drive improves road conditions, but that’s more a case of children not being adults, rather than a comment about the population generally.
The fatality rate in vehicle crashes has declined over the last forty years, but there’s a key change that undermines the requirement of a driver’s license as the cause: changes in vehicle safety design. While seat belts, air bags, safety glass, and crumple zones have become more common; deaths have gone down—even though we’ve brought the speed limit on the Interstate Highway System up from the soul-crushing fifty-five miles an hour.
The parallel here is in safety features in firearms—and no, I don’t mean the demands for “smart” guns. I have a lot of aesthetic appreciation for older designs, but let’s face facts: A firing pin block is a good idea. The gun shouldn’t fire when bumped or when you close the bolt. (Readers will recall several examples here.) The metallurgy should be suitable for the designated cartridge.
Am I really arguing that licenses to drive are pointless? I’ll refrain from temptation and say that this isn’t the point of today’s article.
I am saying is that attempts to compare guns and cars with the goal of requiring a license to be a legal gun owner don’t work. The test to get a driver’s license is pro forma and rarely repeated. The lack of a repeated test to keep the “safety” standard up makes me suspect that the purpose of the DRLC document is much more about raising money for the county/state than about safety. What this proposed analogy does is ask us to contemplate the purpose of controls on the behavior of ordinary people.
Somehow, I don’t think that people control is what gun control advocates intended to be as the focus of the discussion.
About Greg Camp
Greg Camp has taught English composition and literature since 1998 and is the author of six books, including a western, The Willing Spirit, and Each One, Teach One, with Ranjit Singh on gun politics in America. His books can be found on Amazon. He tweets @gregcampnc.