Why do we accept car control, but not gun control?

Today I want to talk about two pillars of the American cultural experience, cars and guns. If you think about it, they're really quite similar. Both can be very useful and fun if used properly. Both are very dangerous when used by people who are inexperienced, drunk, or mentally ill. Both are responsible for thousands of deaths in the United States every year. (30,470 firearm related deaths in 2010 source, 32,885 automobile deaths in 2010 source)

Yet, while cars are heavily regulated, any attempt to impose restrictions on who can buy guns, when and where they can buy them, and what sorts of guns they can buy are met with howls of outrage. Every state maintains a registry of what cars are on the road and who owns them. Calls for a similar registry of guns have been met with panicked cries that such a measure would be merely a precursor to wholesale confiscation of guns. If that were true, shouldn't all the cars have been confiscated by now?

Of course the real issue at the center of the debate is that the right to bear arms is enshrined in the Bill of Rights and the right to drive cars is not. But that doesn't mean we should blindly accept what was written in a document hundreds of years ago. At the time the Bill of Rights was written, a gun was a much more important and necessary part of daily life than it is today. You needed a gun to hunt and provide food for your family. Many people lived in remote areas where they had to protect themselves against criminals or hostile natives. The country did not have the large, organized standing military that we have today, so being able to enlist ordinary citizens quickly to fight was important. Not one of these issues is still pertinent today.

Today people are easily as dependent on cars as people in colonial times were on guns. They are necessary for much of the population to find and maintain employment so they can support themselves and their families. Yet, we are able to manage to procure and maintain this necessary item despite its government regulation. Opponents of gun control complain that a registry would place an undue burden on private gun sales. Meanwhile, thousands of cars are sold by private sellers every year despite having a similar burden.

So, if you're against gun control, but you don't have any similar objections to the way cars are regulated, why not? Check out the thread over on GreaterDebater and leave your thoughts there. I think the two issues have a lot of similarities and the only thing holding us back is an emotional attachment to a centuries-old ideal that isn't nearly as relevant in the modern world.

Originally published 2013-03-26 19:49:38