On Guns and Automobiles

It is often said that one can’t compare apples and oranges; that, a few similarities aside, doing so would present a false analogy and thus not make for an honest argument.  But when it comes to the topic of gun control, it is disheartening to see that honesty and fair analogies are used less and less by many conservatives.

I’m speaking of one argument in particular against gun control that sprung up almost immediately after the tragic events of Newtown.  It basically goes like this:  “People die in automobile accidents everyday.  I guess liberals and progressives will try to ban cars, too.”  The implication being that gun control advocates are blaming the instrument used in the death rather than the person committing the crime.  Of course, that’s nonsense, and the people who use the argument should know better.  Unfortunately, they do not seem to.

cars-gunsLet’s be honest.  The argument is based on a false analogy and, therefore, doesn’t stand up to any kind of serious scrutiny.  For one thing, the idea that anyone is going to “ban guns” is silly.  We have 300 million firearms in this country and they aren’t going anywhere.  Next to no one is talking about that, nor is it being strongly considered by anyone in the government.  Not only would any such action clearly violate the 2nd Amendment, but it would be political suicide for whomever proposed it as a real solution.  So, calm down, gun nuts.  You don’t have to go out and buy more guns to protect the guns no one is taking from you to begin with.

The second reason the argument is flawed is because, while it is certainly true that many people die in traffic accidents, automobiles weren’t created with the intent to kill people, whereas guns most certainly were.  In fact, many automobiles are designed to limit fatalities if and when such incidents should occur.  Seat belts and airbags are two standard safety features we see nowadays, and even race cars have implemented roll cages to protect drivers in case of a particularly bad crash.  How, exactly, have guns been designed to limit fatalities?  Do bullets have air bags?

But let’s pretend for a minute that the use of guns were treated the same as the use of automobiles in this country.  Would that be such a bad thing?  There would be enforcement of a minimum age before anyone could fire a weapon.  You would need to go through classes in proper firearm use and have to pass a variety of tests before getting a license.  You would need liability insurance and, every so often, you would be standing in line at a local state gun bureau of some kind in order to renew your permit, or transfer the title of your weapon to another person.  Sounds good to me.  How about you, NRA members of America?

No, the argument of guns vs. automobiles is an intellectually dishonest one put forth by people who either cannot or do not want to understand the nuance of the gun control debate.  It is used by people who seem to think their unlimited access to firearms will help them protect their family during a home invasion or, I don’t know, fight off the military when the U.S. government becomes tyrannical.  Facts like, “having a gun in your home vastly increases the likelihood of someone in your household dying by homicide, suicide or accident” do not seem to matter.  Facts like “exactly zero tyrannical despots have been overthrown by NRA members” are ignored.

nraNow, please don’t misunderstand me.  I am not against law-abiding citizens owning guns.  In fact, I know a “good guy with a gun” can be a positive thing.  Not only do I have a rifle in my home, but I have seen firsthand one potentially dangerous situation diffused by a citizen with a gun.  Unfortunately, I have also seen what began as a simple misunderstanding exacerbated by one.  While I support the basics of President Obama’s gun control initiatives, I am not naive enough to believe that making them the law of the land will necessarily prevent the next Newtown massacre.  Clearly, we have much work to do as a country on issues related to mental health as well, where it seems more and more people in desperate need of help are falling through the cracks.

But none of this is what I wanted to communicate specifically in today’s article.  Instead, I wanted to focus on the single most silly argument I keep seeing turn up on message boards and social networking sites across the world wide web – the unfair analogy of guns and automobiles.  So, if I haven’t made myself clear by now, let me be blunt:  stop using it.

The truth is, the topic of gun control is an important one, and we should all be having reasonable and sensible conversations about it.  What is stifling that in many respects are the use of false analogies.  Whether you are for or against further restrictions on firearms in this country, please do us all a favor.  Use a little reason, some simple logic, and try to have a bit of patience.  At the very least, when forming your argument, let’s compare apples with apples instead of another fruit altogether.

Thanks for reading.