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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Guns and Cars - Treat 'em the Same!

This essay is liable to annoy both gun enthusiasts and gun control advocates; the former because I'm advocating a lot of regulations, and the latter because I'm allowing every competent person to own guns.


I think guns and automobiles should be treated the same. Both are potentially dangerous machines which are very useful and also loved by many. You should need to be tested to get a license for either, and both should be registered.

There are some differences of course.  Cars are used every day by most Americans, whereas guns are used much less.  Of course many gun owners keep theirs in the home for possible defense, so you could say that it's being used every day.  Although the number of gun owners is much less than car owners, still there are roughly a third of the population that does own a gun.  It's estimated that there are about 300 million guns in the U.S., but many gun owners have several guns, which explains how there can be so many guns and also so many people who don't own a gun.  A big difference between cars and guns is that almost all deaths due to cars are accidental, whereas most gun deaths are either deliberate, or the result of a gun being used in a crime.

If guns are to be treated like cars, that implies training, testing, licensing, registration and taxation.  In order to drive a car safely, everyone gets some training, either in high school, or by a driving school, or by a family member or close friend.  Then everyone gets tested to see that they do know how to handle the vehicle, and that they know the traffic laws.  Finally, they are issued a license, without which it is illegal to drive.   

All of that is apart from vehicle registration.  All vehicles that use the public roads are required to be registered, meaning that a state motor vehicles department knows their serial number, and who owns them.  When ownership is transferred the state must be notified.  If the car is stolen the state must be notified.  Every car has a unique serial number (VIN) which it is illegal to remove.  Cars must be tested for minimum safety requirements, such as functioning brakes and lights.   Finally, there is a registration fee, which is necessary in order to pay for all of the above.  (That's what I meant by taxation.)


The primary purpose of all of the above is to reduce accidents on the nation's streets and highways.   It has worked fairly well, since tens of thousands of miles are driven for every accident, and the accident rate per mile traveled has been steadily declining for decades.   Most of that decline has probably been due to improvements in roads and vehicles, but the system of training, testing, licensing and registration deserves some of the credit.  There are secondary purposes as well, such as recovering stolen cars, identifying owners of abandoned cars, and identifying cars involved in crimes


If we were to begin treating guns the same as cars, it would require the various states to create Departments of Firearms, just as they now have Departments of Motor Vehicles.  Then a system of training, testing, licensing and registration would have to be devised, along with a fee structure to pay for it all.   Serial numbers on guns would continue to be required; they might be called FINs.   So, under this proposed system, a young would-be gun owner would have to get some training in the proper use of firearms, and the laws governing them.  Then he would have to pass a test to demonstrate his knowledge.  Ideally, that would have a written part, and a "live" part, where he would shoot a few bullets at a firing range, and demonstrate his knowledge of proper gun handling.  Probably there would be a minimum age for a license, and there might be a one or two year provisional licence when the user would be required to have a fully licensed person present when using the gun.  There might also be advanced types of licenses required for more dangerous weapons.


The weapon itself would have to be registered with the state Department of Firearms.  The owner would have to be responsible for seeing that the registration is updated when the ownership changes.  Stolen guns must be reported to the police and the DF.  (Department of Firearms)