The dilemma — cars and guns

Image for post
Image for post

Ponder a stark contrast. We have two examples of how America facilitates possession of potentially lethal machinery in the hands of citizens. Deadly tools that can be owned by almost any adult.

In one case, there are more than two hundred million users, who operate the machines with stunning skill, aiming them to just barely miss each other, hundreds of times per day. They license and register the machines and get insurance.

Yes, thousands of lives are lost to these potentially lethal machines! But if you divide that toll by the sheer number of hours of use, then by the economic benefits and life satisfaction that folks get from mobility, then the pain is thinly distributed. So thinly that the social consensus is: “Let’s keep researching ways to refine the regulations and improve the technology to make them safer, but let’s keep using them.

This is working.

The other class of potentially lethal machinery accounts for almost exactly the same number of deaths per year!

Dig it — that’s a “wow” realization. Almost exactly the same number of deaths. Even though the second class of dangerous tool is used far, far less often, especially when it comes to “self-protection.”

The ratio of deaths per hour of use is incomparably higher for guns than cars. Like contrasting a mouse to a planet.

What are the crucial differences?

Oh, sure, one major aspect of the difference of lethality is intent. I get that. But pragmatically, the stunning difference is our attitudes toward what’s reasonable regulation.

In one case there are regulations concerning training, insurance and liability (not just by user-owners but also manufacturers) that successfully reduce risk while enhancing utility.

In the other case, none of this risk/harm/liability mitigation happens. At all. Whatsoever. Institutions are forbidden to even study the tradeoffs. Knowledge itself is dogmatically banned.

= Two types of dangerous machinery. Two opposite outcomes =

The experiment has been run. Cars are regulated with spectacular success, at all levels and in all ways. Even the DMV runs far better, nowadays, in most states.

A huge burden of proof falls upon those who proclaim that Guns should not be treated exactly like cars. At all levels and in all ways. And yes, if you want an assault rifle, fine… take extra tests and insurance like the driver of an 18-wheeler.

There is only one justification for refusing to go along with this simple and logical approach: The Slippery Slope to Total Confiscation of Firearms by an Orwellian State. (SSTTCFOS).

That’s it. That is the sum total of the argument against changing the DMV to the DMV&G. Gun owners fear that, “I don’t want my guns registered, insured and licensed because then the state will know where they are and come and take ‘em.”

Whereupon I shock folks by saying… I agree!

SSTTCFOS is an actual concern! There is a germ of a genuine objection, deep down, underneath the NRA-fomented hysteria, and liberals are foolish to dismiss it, out of hand. In fact, I favor some steel-hard protections of Americans’ “insurrectionary recourse.”

The criminal stupidity of gun nuttery is not that they fret about SSTTCFOS.

It is their refusal to look for a win-win. A positive-sum outcome.

I describe one possible solution — that could give all of us what we want and need — here. Alas, no one seems interested in talk of a potential win-win-win.

== A useful metaphor ==

One of you (out there in the Brin-o-centric ether ;-) made the following, amazingly cogent observation:

“Gun advocates maintain that any law that infringes an American’s right to bear arms is unconstitutional. Only note:

“While the constitution guarantees the right to vote, we do place restrictions on the right to vote: citizens are required to register ( and change their registration when they move). There are rules about where citizens may vote — and when they can vote. And gerrymandering can weaken an individual’s vote.”

And indeed, in Red America there are huge efforts to regulate away voting rights for millions. Talk about a slippery slope! But this comparison’s true meaning is simple. Rights do not have to go un-regulated in matters of process. You can wave picket signs on sidewalks and in parks, but not in the street or blocking businesses, yet we still have freedom of speech.

Again, I GET the slippery slope that gun activists fear! I actually share that strong worry and reservation!

But they are as shortsighted as lemmings. If you want to see how to prevent any slippery slope and get a win-win

= An idea whose time has come? =

Years ago I proposed we copy a technique used two millennia ago, to discourage male morons from committing heinous acts in exchange for infamy. The idea was pooh-poohed and ignored for two decades… untill Parkland.

Suddenly, the notion of denying these awful twerps the spotlight has be called-out by columnists who act as if they invented the idea. It’s actually the “Erastratos Effect,” and here’s where you can see it worked out… how we can keep total freedom to know and speak, while still deterring these jerks, by denying them any noteworthy mention in history.

Follow-up essays:

Names of Infamy: Deny Killers the Notoriety They Seek.

The Jefferson Rifle: Seeking a Compromise Solution.

Author, scientist, public speaker. My books include The Transparent Society, The Postman, Earth, Existence, and Startide Rising.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store