Why Not Regulate Guns Just As We Already Regulate A Similarly Dangerous Hunk of Steel?

Imagine that you turned on the news today to learn that Group A of politicians was accusing Group B of politicians of plotting to confiscate all automobiles.  As evidence, Group A was noting that Group B supports requiring users of vehicles to be licensed, registered and of sound, mind and body, and opposes the use of armored tanks or monster trucks on community roadways.  In that news story, imagine that Group A is insisting that no vehicle regulations be used.  After all, they claim, any regulation would be equivalent to, or would surely lead to, confiscation of all vehicles.

We would think Group A was delusional, even though we all adore cars and are vehemently opposed to them being confiscated. But that, my friends, is the world in which we are living, when it comes to gun control.

Almost every debate about responsible gun control regulation is dodged by gun advocates. Instead of debating proposed gun regulations on the merits, gun advocates instead claim that the mere mention of a gun regulation constitutes ipso facto evidence that guns are about to be confiscated. That ridiculous assertion has been trotted out there for decades, despite the fact that gun confiscation has never even been proposed by a mainstream politician, much less come close to being enacted.

Obama_gun_control_confiscation_memeGun advocates promised President Obama would be a gun confiscator, and they rushed out to buy stockpiles of weapons and ammunition.  To no sane person’s surprise, it never happened, even in the first two years of his presidency when Obama’s party controlled the House, Senate and White House.  It was never even proposed.

Obviously, no one is going to confiscate guns, because there is no political support in America for confiscating guns. It hasn’t happened, and it’s just not going to happen.  We need to put those confiscation delusions to rest before America can have a reasonable debate about how to responsibly regulate guns.

A Familiar Regulatory Framework

How should America regulate guns?  My approach is simple: Let’s regulate guns similarly to how we regulate cars and trucks. Both motor vehicles and guns are hunks of steel that pose relatively little public danger when used

Think about it:  Both motor vehicles and guns are hunks of steel that pose relatively little public danger when used responsibly, but are extraordinarily dangerous when used irresponsibly. For that reason, society keeps motor vehicles legal, but we regulate them to reduce the risk of harm.  Therefore, we should regulate guns just as we regulate motor vehicles:

  • Users should be licensed.
  • Users should have to pass a basic safety-related test in order to get a license.
  • Users who are not physically or mentally equipped to safely operate the equipment should not be licensed to do so.
  • There should be rules for safe use of the equipment.
  • Users who don’t use the equipment responsibly should lose their license.
  • Each piece of equipment should be registered.
  • Equipment registration data and user licensure data should be readily available to law enforcement officials to help them enforce laws.
  • The equipment should be able to be used in many parts of the community, but not in all parts of the community.
  • The equipment should be required to have locking devices to help the user secure it from theft and use by minors and other unlicensed citizens.
  • The equipment should be required to have reasonable safety features.
  • The equipment makers should be held liable for failure to produce safe equipment, just as every other manufacturer is.
  • Types of equipment that are unnecessarily dangerous to the community shouldn’t legal.

That’s what American society does with cars and trucks, with relatively few complaints or abuses, and that’s what we should do with guns.

Would applying the motor vehicle regulatory model to guns stop every accidental shooting, murder, mass murder, and suicide? Of course not. Just as regulated motor vehicles still are dangerous, regulated guns would still be plenty dangerous. But just as motor vehicle regulations limit the harm caused by cars and trucks in society, gun regulations would limit the harm caused by guns in society.  It would make a difference.  It would make things less bad.

So let’s have an honest debate about that familiar and successful regulatory model.  And for once, let’s have the debate without getting side-tracked by ridiculous delusions of confiscation.

Note:  In the wake of yesterday’s horrific and all too familiar shootings in Las Vegas, this is a Wry Wrerun.  A very similar version was originally posted in October of 2015.

5 thoughts on “Why Not Regulate Guns Just As We Already Regulate A Similarly Dangerous Hunk of Steel?

  1. I agree with you, but how do you propose getting around the absurd interpretation of the Second Amendment that is used to guarantee the right to own a gun? Cars have no constitutional protections that I am aware of.

  2. Fair question, Cameron. Some regulation has been found to be constitutional, so much more could be done even within the status quo Constitution and rulings. Beyond that, we should work towards amending the Constitution to make it clear that regulation of gun use is permissible. I know changing the Constitution isn’t easy, but it has been done many times, so it should be a long-term goal. The first step in getting there is to convince our friends and neighbors that regulation of dangerous things is reasonable and normal. That’s what I’m trying to do here.

    • In many places in the Constitution – free speech, assembly for example – there are what reads like absolute prohibitions on things we can’t do. Even so, we constrain speech in a number of ways.

      It’s also worth noting that it’s only been recently that the “right to keep and bear arms” has been divorced from the preceding clause “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State…” That dates from “District of Columbia v. Heller”, 554 U.S. 570 (2008) which was a 5-4 decision. Not a huge precedent (though one the current court seems unlikely to overturn).

  3. I’m in 100% agreement with you. My children had to take 30 hours of driving instruction; prospective gun operators should have to do the same. I’d even be in favor of different types of licensing for different uses – hunting, self-defense, long gun, handgun, etc. are similar to different licenses for cars, commercial vehicles, truckers, motorcycles.

    By far, though, the saddest part of your post is that it’s a repeat from just a couple years ago. It’s like the Tweet I saw from the kid who said “I’ve seen this headline three times in my life: ‘Country responds to deadliest shooting in history.’ I’m 22.”

  4. Oh yeah, maybe someone could propose a way to insure firearms as autos are required to be insured. But having an amred populace is not in itself the problem. Switzerland has an armed populace. Does anyone reading this know what kinds of rules and regulations are in force in Switzerland on personal gun ownership rights? What do they do that we don’t do?
    Our American problem is the American problem—guns deployed as psychological phallic substitutes, providing to emotionally impotent and warped men (young and old) that sense of macho power which they dream of and yet cannot achieve in their own miserable and resentful daily life. Stir in a lifelong addiction to American television’s incessant repetition of shoot-em-up and blow-em-up picture-stories, which creates a lowest-common-denominator of so-called entertainment, resulting in a depraved and degenerate popular culture . . . but what else can we expect when our national mission for the past 70 years has been to rule the world at gunpoint?

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