We can learn a lot by comparing guns to cars

A common rebuttal to any discussion about of gun control is motor vehicle accident deaths. We don’t blame the car, we blame the driver. Regardless of the object’s intent (the car is for transportation and the gun is shoot people, targets, game, and skeet), neither a car nor a gun can kill or maim without human touch.

And I agree. Comparing guns and cars is fair, after all they kill about the same number of Americans every year: 33,687 motor vehicle deaths and 31,672 firearm deaths in 2010 (the latest year for which complete data is available). The death rates per 100,000 are almost identical: 10.9 for motor vehicles and 10.3 for firearms.

So let’s legislate guns just like we legislate motor vehicles:

  • Learners permit at age 15 and a formal test required for a license at 16. This kind of law would prevent deaths of young children who are taken by their parents to firing ranges to “try out” weapons. Or parents letting their kids shoot a gun in any situation. Just as a nine-year old isn’t allowed to drive a car, so they shouldn’t be allowed to fire a 9 mm Micro Uzi. It is doubtful children firing automatic weapons was the intention of our founding fathers when they crafted the second amendment. Hunting is no exception. Kids can’t drive a car or truck for any purpose and nor should they be shooting a firearm.
  • Require renewal of the license every 2-3 years. I have to renew my driver’s license, why not renew a license to fire a gun?
  • Require a different license for different classes of weapons. A driver of an 18 wheeler requires a different license. Handling a vehicle of that size with air brakes is very different from driving an automatic, 6 cylinder car. If you want to purchase a semi-automatic weapon, it should require a different license*
  • Registration. Cars have to be registered, so all guns should be too. Remember, we’re saying guns are no more lethal than cars, so if it’s good for a car it’s good for a gun. Registering a weapon doesn’t infringe on the right to own. Gun licensing and registration will create government jobs!
  • Require gun insurance. If I ever intend on driving my car, I need insurance, so that same standard should apply to firearms. Safe gun owners (gun not stolen and used in a crime, no accidents around the house, trigger locks etc.) will get breaks, and the insurance money can be used to pay hospital bills (just like car insurance) if you inadvertently injure someone with your weapon.*
  • Safety testing. I have to get my car smog tested every 2-3 years, so why not bring the gun in for inspection? Failure to present the gun without proof of legal sale would imply illegal sale or theft and impart significant penalties. Gas stations do smog testing, so firing ranges could easily step up to the plate as I am sure they are advocates of gun safety and maintenance.
  • Tax ammunition. Heavily. Gasoline is taxed. Heavily. However, ammunition is relatively cheap. For example, a 40 round magazine for an AK-47 can be purchased online for $29.99, which is less than a dollar a bullet and far less than a tank of gas. I propose a steep tax on ammunition that exponentially increases with the size of the magazine. The tax money can go for education about gun safety or to pay medical expenses for victims injured in gun crimes.
  • Prevent online sales of ammunition. Since you can’t buy gasoline online for home delivery, you shouldn’t be able to buy ammunition online. Alaska; California; Cook County, IL; Hawaii; Massachusetts; New York City; and Washington, D.C. already restrict shipping ammunition from online sales, so why not the rest of the country? If it’s illegal in several states and D.C. the laws preventing online sales must have survived legal challenges, so it’s time to go national.
  • Require trigger locks. Cars have locks to prevent theft and protect children from climbing in and starting the car. No one argues, “Cars shouldn’t have a key for the ignition in case you are being chased so you can make a quick getaway.” If you can take time to start your car, you can take time to start your gun. The news is rife with stories of teenagers or young children either accidentally or intentionally killing with a gun from the home. A lock could prevent this. Obviously, people can choose to leave their guns unlocked, but… (see below).
  • Require more of gun manufacturers. If 15 people a year were killed by a Prius in a freak accident Toyota would be all over it, yet somehow gun manufacturers get away with no press after gun deaths. I’m not talking about homicides, but accidental ones. Like the five people shot by accident at gun shows on gun appreciation day. Not quite 100 people a year were killed by vehicles backing up, but car manufacturers responded with rear-end camera and alarms. Couldn’t gun manufacturers find a way to make guns safer? To make trigger locks difficult to bypass? Car manufacturers want to keep their drivers and occupants safe, shouldn’t gun manufacturers do the same?

We can learn a lot by comparing guns to cars. None of the above says it isn’t your right to have a gun, just that we all have a stake in safe gun ownership.

So please, yes, let’s start comparing guns to cars.

Jennifer Gunter is an obstetrician-gynecologist and author of The Preemie Primer. She blogs at her self-titled site, Dr. Jen Gunter.

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