Regulation and Safety: A Case Study

Our fellow citizens, in their blind zeal to protect their Second Amendment rights, reject any regulation of firearms, however slight. The result has been carnage. WC doubts you need a recitation of recent mass shootings.1

What’s curious, though, is that we accept the 30 thousand plus firearm deaths each year even though they arise from a tool that has no purpose except killing people and things from a distance. A firearm is a tool that has no purpose except to wound and kill.2

When WC’s Second Amendment-obsessed buddies attempt to defend their fixation on this deadly tool, they point to the automobile as a tool that also causes 30 thousand plus deaths a year. But, unlike firearms, automobiles serve multiple beneficial purposes in our society. They transport people and goods. Like firearms, they are a form of recreation themselves. But unlike firearms, they are regulated.

And they are thoroughly regulated. Operators are licensed and, in most states, insured against accident. Automobiles have a high degree of mandated safety features. And those safety features work. The number of accidents per billion miles has been in steady decline for decades.

Annual US vehicle miles traveled (blue, in tens of billions) and traffic fatalities per billion miles traveled (red) from 1921 to 2015

Annual US vehicle miles traveled (blue, in tens of billions) and traffic fatalities per billion miles traveled (red) from 1921 to 2015

The national average is down to something like 11.3 fatalities per billion miles. Government regulation of automobiles has demonstrably made those tools much safer.

So how is it that a firearm, a tool with no purpose but killing and wounding at a distance, a tool that kills 30 thousand plus people a year, can completely escape all regulation? Why is a tool that can only wound and kill have so much less regulation than a useful tool like the automobile?

There’s nothing especially mystical about firearms. The irrational fixation, the paranoia that any regulation whatsoever means the “government” is going to take away their weapons is bizarre. Government seizure of weapons is about as likely as the government taking away our automobiles. That fixation is fed by the NRA, whose mission is to sell more firearms.

The NRA’s claim that more firearms make us safer is laughable, or would be except for the body count. If safety were created by firearms in the hands of citizens, the United States, with its tens of millions of firearms in the hands of its citizens, would be the safest place on the planet. After all, we have the most weapons per capita in the world.

It’s not.

A study published in the American Journal of Medicine in February 2016 found the U.S., with the highest number of firearms per capita, was had a murder rates 25 times higher than 22 other high-income nations. The suicide rate is 8 times higher. More firearms plainly means more firearms deaths, not fewer. Any claim to the contrary is just a gun manufacturer looking for sale.

WC isn’t some gun-fearing libtard. WC hunted for years, and fed his family on moose and caribou. WC owns firearms. But the refusal of WC’s fellow gun owners to agree to licensing and registration is irrational and killing innocents. Licensing, insurance, registration and safety requirements have made automobiles safer. It can do the same thing for firearms. In a sensible Congress, it would have already happened.


  1. Or to be told that thoughts and prayers don’t stop bullets. 
  2. Target shooting is practicing to be better at killing and wounding from a distance.