After the horrible shootings that occurred yesterday, many people are calling for at least a discussion about gun control. Admittedly, there are some who want to ban guns altogether and make our gun control policy like Japan. Japan averages about 5 gun related deaths per year, but it is nearly impossible to own a firearm. Others like me are looking for a more realistic and reasonable approach, with constructive and logical discussion to try to solve an obvious problem. One of the memes that I keep running into in every discussion is that “People die every day in car accidents. Why don’t we ban cars?”. This is probably the argument that angers me the most, except for maybe the “God didn’t save those children in the school, because God is not welcome in public schools” argument. At least I can dissect the “cars kill also” argument without wanting to scream obscenities and burn Mike Huckabee in effigy. Let’s pull the “cars kill also” string for a while.
We travel in automobiles daily, sometimes surrounded by thousands of other people operating their automobiles in close proximity at a high rate of speed. We travel in poor weather and at night, and we often drive while distracted, tired, or even when we are impaired by alcohol or drugs. It is a miracle that more people aren’t killed in automobile accidents every day.
Only it isn’t a miracle. It is an ongoing calculated risk equation. There is a baseline probability of death whenever you operate an automobile on public roads. We lower this baseline probability of death by several methods. First, we require a state issued license in order to operate a motor vehicle. This license is obtained by attending a state-mandated training program which includes classroom training, monitored practice sessions, a written exam, and a driving exam. If you have a physical impairment such as bad vision, you must correct that impairment prior to receiving a license. Acquiring this license shows that you have the minimum driving proficiency to operate a motor vehicle on the public roads. This license does not apply to all vehicles, only the simplest passenger vehicles. A separate training program and license is required to operate larger, more complex vehicles like trucks and buses. We also require each vehicle to be licensed and inspected to ensure that it is a safe vehicle to drive on the roads, and that the owner is legally able to possess the vehicle. Each driver is required by law to carry insurance on the vehicle prior to operation. Liability is the minimum level of insurance required, to ensure that another drivers are covered in the event that you make an error in your driving. There is financial backing if you cause an accident that results in property damage or personal injury. Other laws that make driving safer is that you are required to use the safety functions of your vehicle, like seatbelts and head/tail lights. There are steep penalties for operating a motor vehicle without adhering to these rules, up to seizure of your vehicle and prison time. These rules have evolved over time, and automobile deaths have lowered despite the gigantic increase in the number of cars on the road.
So let’s compare gun ownership with car ownership, since the “cars kill also” meme gives them equivalency. You don’t need a license to own a gun. You don’t need any training to own any type of gun. You don’t have to prove your proficiency in the operation of the gun prior to being allowed to shoot it. You don’t have to register your weapon with anyone or prove that it is even safe to use. You don’t have to carry insurance for owning a gun in case you accidentally shoot someone. You can buy any type of gun, from the lowest peashooter to an assault rifle without any mental health evaluation or even a vision test to ensure that you can see what you are shooting at.
These are all behaviors and policies that do not lower the risk threshold concerning the ownership and operation of firearms, they actually increase the fault probability.
Now, for all you Second Amendment sticklers, my point is not that we should eliminate guns in the United States. I have a Concealed Handgun License in the State of Texas and I have enjoyed firing weapons my entire life. I have, however, received intensive training in the operation of firearms in the military and in my CHL class. I believe every law abiding person should be able to buy and use all of the weapons they want provided that they have a license to own and shoot that legally registered weapon. This license should be like a driver’s license with classroom and practical instruction and a proficiency test. It should include a mental health screening, a background check, and a vision test. You should have to carry insurance on every firearm you own, just like each car that you own, to provide financial coverage in the case of mishaps. Lastly, there should be extremely heavy penalties if you are caught with a firearm without an operators license and the proper registration of the weapon in your possession.
Everybody jumps through all of these regulatory hoops to drive, because we need to drive our cars to get to work and to function in society. These regulations and rules make driving safer for all of the drivers on the road, and provide accountability in the case of any unintentional problems that may occur while driving. Why wouldn’t you use this proven risk reduction model to make gun ownership and gun usage safer for the public as a whole? Oh yeah, freedom. I forgot. Also Hitler, communists, the UN, and Jesus. Maybe you should add Mathematics to that list and give it a shot.