Let's talk about a certain kind of object. A "motor vehicle."
This object is designed to transport people and materials from place to place
But because it is very heavy and can move with extreme speed, it is potentially dangerous. Because of this potential for danger, its use is highly regulated.
If you buy such an object,in almost every state, you must immediately pay a fee to register your ownership with the government, and at all times, the object must display a "license plate" identifying it as yours. Once a year thereafter, you must pay another fee to renew this registration.
The first time you use such an object, you must first pay a another fee to obtain a "license" or "learner's permit." You must also pass both a written and operational test of both your knowledge of laws pertaining to the operation of this object and your individual skill in operating it.
Before you can operate it, it must be fitted with specific safety equipment--lights, brakes, horn, seat belts. Once a year, you must pay a fee to have this equipment inspected.
Once a year, in almost every state, you must also pay to have this object checked to make sure it is not producing pollutants over a specific level.
Your use of this object is strictly limited. You can only use it in specific, designated areas: roads, streets, highways, parking lots. Even in these areas, your use is tightly controlled by a multitude of regulatory devices: lane markings, stop signs, stop lights, turning signals, walkways, speed limits, directional signs. If you fail to obey these limits, the government can fine or even jail you.
If you use this object while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the government can fine or even jail you. In many states, even having a open can of beer in the car while you are driving can be grounds for an arrest.
In most states, you must obtain insurance coverage before using this object. If you fail to do so, your right to use this object can be revoked. If you use it nonetheless, the government can fine or even jail you.
If you allow a child under a certain age to operate this object, you can be arrested, fined and even jailed.
Despite all these regulations, more than 32,000 people died because of the use of these objects in 2011. This represents a fatality rate of 10.38 fatalities per 100,000 people, but it is the lowest such rate since 1941. (In fact, the last time this rate was this low was in 1919. 1941 marked the highest rate of fatalities per 100,000 people, 28.59.)
Now let's talk about another type of object. A firearm.
This object is designed specifically to inflict damage, on inanimate targets, game animals and human beings.
The regulations on owning and using this type of object vary widely from state to state. In some states, you do not need a permit to own many versions of this object. In some states, there is no legal requirement to pass a test to prove your competency in operating this object. In some states, it is legal to carry certain versions of this object wherever you go, including into churches, schools, shopping malls, hospitals, and movie theatres. In some states, you can buy whatever version of this object you want, sometimes without even a background check. In almost no state is there requirement to obtain insurance to own this object.
In some states, there are no regulations defining how young a child must be before it can legally operate this object. In many states, you can legally drink while carrying this type of object.
Now....despite the relative lack of regulations involving the ownership and use of this object, there are people in this country who would like to get rid off all such regulations. All of them. In fact, they claim that the constitution gives them the right to own and carry this type of object without any government restrictions whatsoever.
When others argue that this would be dangerous, the "right to carry" citizens cite the fact that more people are injured and killed by automobiles than firearms. (The firearm death rate for 2009 was 10.1 people per 100,000 in population.) Therefore, they claim, firearms are inherently less dangeous than motor vehicles.
But before we accept this argument, perhaps this question should be asked:
If all regulations were removed on the use of motor vehicles--or even if they were as laxly regulated as firearms--what would the death rate for motor vehicle use be then?
If drivers could drive one anywhere they wanted--on the sidewalk, across front yards, through an open air pedestrian mall--what would the death rate be then?
If they could always use their own judgment on when it was necessary to stop, or wait before making a left-hand turn, or decide for themselves if they needed to yield to oncoming traffic, what would the death rate be then?
If they could legally drive 60 miles per hour down crowded city streets or 100 miles per hour down single-lane country roads, what would the death rate be then?
If they could legally drive with worn brakes, turn signals that didn't work, no seatbelts, and bald tires, what would the death rate be then?
If they could legally drive while drinking, what would the death rate be then?
If they could sit in the back seat while their twelve year old chld drove, what would be the death rate then?
If they knew that no one could easily identify the car they were driving as theirs, what would the death rate be then?
I think we know the answer. The death rate would not be in the tens of thousands, but in the hundreds of thousands.
Common sense regulation of this potentially deadly type of object saves hundreds of thousands of lives per year and does not materially effect the benefits or pleasure of owning it.
Common sense regulation of firearms would have the same effect.