Clippings by Andy Kirkaldy: First the guns, then the cars … or not

I’m not trying to scare business away from my good friends at Vermont Field Sports, who tell me they always see sales spike when gun control hits the news, but it’s safe to say the state’s law-abiding hunters can breathe easy. No one is coming for their rifles, or is going to pass a law that says they can’t buy newer, better ones.
That’s not really the point of the current discussion on guns — and, make no mistake about it, it’s time to talk.
To start with, look at it this way: Cars and guns are both legal products, subject to government control.
Deaths due to automobiles have dropped steadily, from a high of more than 50,000 in 1979, even though there are more people and cars on the road today than then.
According to an online USA Today article in December, “A total of 32,367 motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians died in 2011, a 1.9 percent decrease from 2010. Last year’s toll represents a 26 percent decline from 2005, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said.”
Why? In the article, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood “attributed the decline in recent years to aggressive enforcement and public education campaigns and continuing improvements in technology aimed at building safer vehicles and roads.”
Government regulation had a lot to do with it, in other words, because government builds roads. The federal government also first required seat belts, and then, over the prolonged protest of car manufacturers, in 1998 added the requirement for front air bags. Those laws have saved lives. Credit also goes to car manufacturers for better crash resistance and for antilock brakes.
Why is this relevant? (Other than that there are ways that manufacturers could make guns safer.)
Well, nobody is coming for our cars just because they kill about 30,000 people a year. They are a legal product, subject to regulation. Just because the government establishes laws that limit who can drive and how fast they can drive, and spell out what steps citizens must take before they are licensed to drive, it does not mean that a ban on cars is looming.
Likewise, just because the government is looking at making it harder for the unhinged or criminal to get guns, harder for guns to be purchased without good background checks, easier to perform those background checks, and harder to buy weapons that fire bursts of bullets, it doesn’t mean that a ban on guns is looming. It’s not going to happen.
So in our conversations about guns, just stop with the “thin end of the wedge” nonsense. The government is simply considering enhancing its regulations to make legal products safer for all.
Well, why should it? Getting back to our cars comparison, there are about 30,000 deaths a year attributable to guns (31,190 in 2011 according to one source), with the largest number of that amount suicides. Slightly more than half of all suicides, more than 11,000 a year, are accomplished with guns.
Next, one argument often made is that “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.”
But let’s say some poor excuse for a human being (I’d like to use stronger language, but, well, you know) walks into a movie theater with a knife. How long would it take him (and it’s always a him, but that’s a story for another day) to do the same amount of damage it would to do with a Bushmaster assault rifle? How much sooner would he be overpowered or help arrive?
And other weapons don’t allow for the emotional detachment of guns. Pulling a trigger 30 feet away is not like shoving a knife into someone’s heart after looking them in the eye. Would the same person even be capable of the same crime without that psychological distance?
So please, in this conversation that we must all have, leave that card in the deck. There aren’t other weapons like automatic and semi-automatic pistols and rifles.
I shouldn’t have to say this, but let’s please leave the U.N. helicopters, foreign invaders, or U.S. government conspiracies out of the discussion and sideline those who bring them up.
I mean, did moronic talk-show host Alex Jones bring anything to the table when he told Piers Morgan this on CNN: “Hitler took the guns, Stalin took the guns, Mao took the guns. Fidel Castro took the guns. Chávez took the guns, and I’m here to tell you, 1776 will commence again if you try to take our firearms.”
Needless to say, I’d much rather we listen to the parents of Sandy Hook Elementary School, some of them gun owners, who have started a group called “Sandy Hook Promise.” At a Monday press conference they called for the long overdue national conversation on, in nbcnews.com’s words, “guns, school safety and mental health.”
Parent Nicole Hockley, who lost 6-year-old Dylan, told NBC she has met with families from the Columbine, Aurora and Virginia Tech tragedies.
“I do not want to be someone sharing my experience and consoling another parent next time,” Hockley said. “I do not want there to be a next time.”
Jeremy Richman, father of 6-year-old victim Avielle, has started a foundation to support scientific mental health research.
“It is our responsibility to be outraged,” Richman said. “It is our responsibility to take action.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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