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Cars and guns and drivers and shooters…oh, my

January 25, 2013

So, there’s this blogger whose view of guns and gun control is about 180 degrees off from mine. That’s okay. He’s free to hold whatever view he wishes. I read and comment on his blog, not because I have any idea that I might one day help him see things differently, but simply because I have this affinity for arguing with ridiculous points of view. I like to think it keeps me in intellectual fighting form, though it probably doesn’t do more than necessitate I continue to take my good ol’ lisinopril (aka “blood pressure medicine”…sound of annoyance at my body’s betrayal of me).
Anyway, I was reading yesterday and came across this jewel of a piece from that bastion of journalistic excellence known as The Huffington Post. I don’t really care to increase the readership of this fine institution, but it is necessary to link to it to prove I’m not making up the referenced article. I must warn you, though, the article is long on talk and woefully short on logic. I wanted to address it because the primary argument the author puts forth is one I’ve heard for years from many gun control folks. The idea is that guns and those who shoot guns should be dealt with in a way similar to how we deal with cars and drivers. To many gun control folks, and honestly to some gun owners, it sounds, perhaps, not too unreasonable. There are, of course, some problems with it in terms of requiring registration and licensing to exercise a basic civil liberty, but I don’t want to deal with those. Nope, I want to address each of the points the article makes and hopefully make it plain why, in my experience, those who propose such a thing are either
  • arguing without thinking through the implications, OR
  • arguing dishonestly
Insurance
Yes, we are required to have insurance to drive. The insurance requirements vary from state to state as to the kinds and minimal amounts required. Still, if I’m insured in one state and drive through another with different requirements, I’m not required to buy additional insurance. It’s also worth noting that at least as early as 2011 there was one state, Virginia, that did not require automobile insurance as long as the driver was willing to annually post a $500.00 bond with the state. The cost of insurance is based on a number of factors, determinedby the insurance company rather than by the state. While I may occasionally accuse insurance companies of less than ethical practices I do recognize that they have the right to charge as much or as little as they want from their policy holders.
It’s important to notice that drivers are not required to have insurance to cover some legal liability if a vehicle is stolen and then used in the commission of a crime. Nor are drivers expected to go to extraordinary lengths to prevent the theft of their vehicles, though they are widely stolen and kill thousands of people every year.
Registration and licensing
Again, each state has its own requirements as to how this is done. Briefly, though, if I meet the minimum requirements for the state in which I live, the registration and license fall into the “shall issue” category rather than the “may issue” category. I am not required to demonstrate a need for the vehicle or license. Beyond the paperwork shuffle, all that is required is that I pay the required fees. And, while the costs can vary significantly from state to state, at least some states have made an effort to ensure the fees are no more onerous than necessary. They are in fact reduced or even waived for some drivers. Additionally, in some states there are groups of people, active duty military for instance, who benefit from less restrictive licensing requirements. What’s really interesting is that if I leave Texas and drive to visit California, my license and registration are viewed as completely valid for the duration of my visit. I am only required to change my license and registration if I moveto another state. In that case, since I’ve already met the requirements of the other state, obtaining a new license is a matter of simply paying the fee in my new state of residence. Again, it’s a “shall issue” process.
Finally, my understanding and experience is that the insurance, registration and licensing requirements typically only apply for operation of a vehicle on public property.
So, as I have this discussion with gun control folks, I find that their support for “let’s register guns and license shooters like we do cars and drivers” suddenly begins to wane. Now, they begin to play an engaging game of “yes, but” (thank you Eric Berne) as they consider the implications. This is what leads me to one of my two conclusions. Either they made the “let’s do it like we do for cars” argument without understanding it and now that they’ve come face to face with what it means they don’t like the implications or they thought it through but were never serious about it. I’ll leave alone, for now, those who made the argument without thinking it through. I want to deal with those who clearly have thought it through, but didn’t really mean it.
I have neverhad a gun control person agree with truly dealing with firearms and shooters like we deal with cars and drivers. Instead, the argument is an introduction into justifying why the situation with firearms is “different”…different from the very analogous argument he or she put forward! Essentially, what is being said is this:
  • We should treat firearms like cars and shooters like drivers (an analogy)
  • Firearms are not like cars and shooters are not like drivers (the analogy I’m using is false)
  • I don’t really want to treat firearms like cars nor shooters like drivers
Or, you could put the argument in its simplest form, like this:
  • I lied
The point is, those people who’ve been involved in this debate long enough have had plenty of time to consider the implications of this argument. It’s not exactly new. I’ve been hearing it for decades and literally more times than I can remember. The idea that a gun control advocate who has been having these discussions for more than a few years has never encountered this argument and never considered the ramifications of regulating guns and shooters this way I find more than a little hard to believe. I know there are uninformed gun control folks out there. Some of them honestly so. I don’t mind those folks (unless they choose to remain uninformed). The ones who truly get under my skin are the people who are lying and by all appearances know they are lying. These are the people who will look at you and tell you the latest and greatest plan to combat violence and all those evil guns in the hands of bad people (who maybe wouldn’t be quite so bad without all those guns, ya know?) is going to deliver on its promise this time…all while knowing it will not and can not do what is promised, so that after the next atrocity committed by some deranged person they can call for just one more piece of reasonable gun legislation. Accompanied, of course, by the assurance that this time it will deliver the promised results. And when it fails and there’s another horrific act of violence…

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