I consider myself an “average” gun owner.
In my 43 years, I’ve owned a number of different pistols, a handful of rifles, and even a couple of shotguns. I’ve hunted both deer and doves. The vast majority of my shooting has been done at ranges in both informal practice and formally-instructed courses. While I’ve never felt a need to keep a running tally of the number of rounds I’ve fired over the years, I can conservatively estimate that I’ve fired at least ten thousand rounds. If that figure is closer to twenty thousand rounds, I wouldn’t be surprised. This is far few than many of the more serious shooters I know, some of whom have touched off more shots than that in a month.
Each and every one of those shots that I’ve fired, from the tiny .22 CB to the .50BMG, was an intentionally triggered controlled chemical explosion that was used to propel a bullet, sabot, or column of shot down a precisely engineered barrel and out the muzzle in a monotonously repeatable ballistic path. When I follow my training, the flight paths of these projectiles is eerily repeatable. In fact, I reviewed a hunting rifle earlier this year that was so accurate with match ammunition that I was able to drop concurrent shots on top of one another at 460 yards (1,380 feet, or 420 meters).
The engineering in the firearms I’ve fired tends to be exquisite. Despite firing so many controlled explosions, not once has the gun catastrophically malfunctioned. If a shooter does his part, follows safety rules, and maintains his firearms and ammunition, he can go through a lifetime without ever encountering a significant safety problem while shooting.
It was with this background that I began to read the most recent Nicolas Kristof column in the New York Times, entitled “Our Blind Spot About Guns.”
In the column, Mr. Kristof attempts to draw parallels between firearms and that other common and complex machine that has evolved over the past century-and-change, the automobile.
If we had the same auto fatality rate today that we had in 1921, by my calculations we would have 715,000 Americans dying annually in vehicle accidents.
Instead, we’ve reduced the fatality rate by more than 95 percent — not by confiscating cars, but by regulating them and their drivers sensibly.
We could have said, “Cars don’t kill people. People kill people,” and there would have been an element of truth to that. Many accidents are a result of alcohol consumption, speeding, road rage or driver distraction. Or we could have said, “It’s pointless because even if you regulate cars, then people will just run each other down with bicycles,” and that, too, would have been partly true.
Yet, instead, we built a system that protects us from ourselves. This saves hundreds of thousands of lives a year and is a model of what we should do with guns in America.
It’s a frankly disappointing and lazy argument that lesser intellectuals have tired before, and I frankly expect better from a Harvard graduate with two Pulitzers to his name.
Perhaps if Mr. Kristof was attempting to compare automobile accidents to firearms accidents, he might have a reasonably comparison that would approximate an “apples to apples” argument, but he isn’t even making that attempt. Nor is he attempting to compare the willful misuse of automobiles against the willful misuse of firearms, which again might approach having some sort of merit.
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When we bother to compare automobile accidents versus firearm accidents, we discover that there were 10,800,000 automobile accidents in 2009, resulting in 35,900 deaths and hundreds of thousands of injuries. In that same time one-year time period, just 554 people died as a result of firearms accidents.
Obviously, people are much more incompetent and careless in the operation of cars than they are firearms, which makes a very good argument for the rules and regulations we have demanded as a society regarding motor vehicles… but that fails to make the case for more heavily regulating firearms, which are rarely implicated in accidental deaths. While every death is tragic for family members, 554 deaths with firearms is statistically insignificant as a cause of death in a nation of 306 million souls that experienced 2,437,163 total deaths that year, and it is worth noting that the accidental death rate with firearms has consistently declined over time without government intervention.
If we compare intentional deaths, then the numbers roughly flip. There were just 60 intentional vehicular homicides in 2009, versus 11,826 homicides with firearms. Both of these data sets include the legally justifiable homicides by these mechanisms, as well. This suggests that when people intend to commit a homicide chose a firearm. If we only had laws regulating homicides…
But what do we get comparing accident deaths with vehicles against accidental deaths with firearms, and intentional deaths by vehicles against intentional deaths by firearms. What does all of this tell us? Precisely nothing of value, of course, and that is why no relatively reasonable person would propose regulating a method of conveyance in the same fashion that you might a weapon.
Fortunately, author Michael Z. Williamson has never claimed to be a reasonable person, and he is more than happy to offer up the argument that cars should be regulated exactly like firearms.
New cars will only be purchased from Federal Automobile Licensees who must provide fingerprints, proof of character, secure storage for all vehicles, and who must call the Federal Bureau of Motor Vehicles to verify your information before purchase. They may approve or decline or delay the sale. If they decline, you may appeal the decision in writing to a review board. If they delay, it becomes an approval automatically after 10 days. However, the dealer may decline to complete such a sale in case of later problems.
Additionally, the purchase of more than two cars in a given year will require signing an understanding that buying cars in order to resell them without a license is a crime. There is an 11% federal excise tax on all new vehicles, plus any state or local tax.
Federal Automobile Licensees must agree to submit to 24/7/365, unannounced, unscheduled searches of their entire homes, businesses and any relates properties and personal effects to be named later.
Then you will be eligible to take your drivers’ license test to determine your eligibility to operate on the street. Rules will vary by state, with some states requiring proof of need to own a vehicle for business purposes, and up to 40 hours of professional education. Also, not all states will accept all licenses. You will need to keep track of this information. Additionally, speed limits will not be posted. It is your responsibility to research the driving laws in each area you wish to travel through. Some communities may not allow out of state vehicles, sports cars, or even any vehicles at all. Violation of these laws will result in confiscation and destruction of your vehicle by crushing.
To have a turbocharger, supercharger (External Engine Compression Devices) or a muffler will require an application to the Federal Bureau of Motor Vehicles. A $2000 tax stamp will be required for these High Performance Vehicles. Your request must also be signed by the local chief law enforcement officer, and you must provide fingerprints. If approved in 10-16 weeks, you will be responsible for keeping your High Performance Vehicle in secure storage, and request permission in writing to take it out of state. You will need to carry this documentation with you. There are 13 states that do not allow possession of High Performance Vehicles. Be sure you are aware of those laws before planning your trips. (But really, what do you need such a vehicle for anyway? Who really needs to drive that fast? You must willingly accept and adhere to the socially accepted idea that you are inherently evil for merely possessing such a fast, high powered automobile.)
Additionally, superchargers and turbochargers must be manufactured before June 1, 1986. They may be sold and refitted by a FAL who also has a Special Occupational Tax license authorizing him to work on these. New superchargers, however, are a violation of federal law, except for use by the police or military, or specific government contractors. Expect to pay $15-$30,000 each for these items. Mufflers will only cost from $250-$1000, plus the $2000 stamp. However, once the muffler is damaged, it must be disposed of by cutting it into three pieces. Failure to do this may result in your family going through the next decade only knowing you in a prison jumpsuit and all your bank accounts seized and never replenished.
Why, that sounds utterly insane, does it not?
And yet, we already apply these exact rules to the ownership of firearms—a vital constitutional right—which we do not require of the unprotected privilege of owning an automobile.
Sadly, Kristof is forced to retreat further into dishonesty to recycle this tired old argument.
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To equate firearms fatalities and automobile fatalities at the “more than 30,000 each year” mark, he is forced to include firearm suicides. If he removes suicides, then his figures plummet 2/3 to just 11,078 homicides committed with firearms (2010). But stating that automobile accidental deaths (which hit an all-time low of 32,788 in 2010) are 295.97% higher than the 11,078 firearms homicides in the same time period just doesn’t quite have the same punch that he’s looking for, does it?
As for his claim that “a bit more than a century ago, there was no universally recognized individual right to bear arms in the United States,” you’ll note that it was a carefully constructed claim, on par with the deceptions of Michael Waldman (whose Howard Zinn-like “biography” of the Second Amendment will go down as one of the more inane academic frauds). Both men intentionally select time periods and places in American history where constitutionality was ignored in place of expediency, where women and minorities were second class citizens. Neither man has the moral courage to go back more than two centuries ago, to the words written by of the Founders on the Second Amendment.
It seems that there is indeed a “blind spot on guns” in the world of Nicholas Kristof.
It’s a spot where his grasp of American history and politics goes conveniently opaque, and his confusion of rights and privileges becomes muddled beyond belief.