Monday, April 23, 2007


In the wake of the VA Tech tragedy last week, I blogged on the restrictions placed on citizens by private enterprise and organizations. This morning, I saw a political cartoon designed to make me feel like an asshole. It was a rail against handgun ownership and claimed 30,000 people are killed annually by handguns.

With a light workload, I did a quick google search and found the following:

The leading causes of death in 2000 were tobacco (435,000 deaths; 18.1% of total US deaths), poor diet and physical inactivity (400,000 deaths; 16.6%), and alcohol consumption (85,000 deaths; 3.5%). Other actual causes of death were microbial agents (75,000), toxic agents (55,000), motor vehicle crashes (43,000), incidents involving firearms (29,000), sexual behaviors (20,000), and illicit use of drugs (17,000).

The data is from 2000, but we'll assume it to be true for subsequent years, too. What I find interesting in that dataset is the number of vehicular deaths. 43,000. With all the assaults against gun ownership, it's astounding that nobody's trying to outlaw cars.

Think about it:
1. There are more vehicular deaths than firearm deaths annually, almost by 50%.
2. There's no constitutional provision guaranteeing the rights to car ownership.
3. Cars are supposedly the leading source of greenhouse-gas emissions, meaning that they're not just killing drivers and pedestrians, but also the earth.

Instead, industry pundits simply work to make cars safer and more efficient, an effort that has cost manufacturers and consumers more than all the tobacco litigation in the world.* Cars, like boats and houses, represent the economic divide between rich and poor. Cars require insurance, education, registration, titling, gas, maintenance, and a host of hidden costs.

But what about racing? Each race, be it NASCAR, F1, or whatever, consumes hundreds of tires, generally sees a few thousand pounds of carbon-fiber and steel get trashed, and costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce. There are deadly accidents every year, alcohol-related incidents at and around the events, hearing damage for participants and fans, massive urban congestion issues, and probably close to 20,000 gallons of fuel consumed. All of this goes to support a merchandising industry that further puts the poor in debt, as they feel they must financially support their favorite driver or team.

So, to review: cars are a deadly economic and environmental strain on our society, forcing us into bed with hostile nations and keeping the little man down.
Guns, on the other hand, were the instrument by which we won our independence and preserve our personal safety (which is why they're constitutionally protected). They are not considered pollutants, they range from cheap to moderately expensive--but without much in terms of maintenance costs (cleaning kit, ammunition)--and they're only half as deadly.

I know this debate has been brought up before, and it gets the same response: sarcasm is a poor excuse for wit. And indeed it is somewhat sarcastic, as nobody would ever consider banning automotion, and guns are an easy target, but the sarcasm doesn't deny the facts. Everything in the argument is true: guns are not as deadly as cars. So, until we eradicate smoking, physical inactivity, alcohol, microbial agents, and toxic agents, we should leave guns the hell alone. And when we do get through with that list, watch out: your sex life is next.

*I have no support for that claim, but since emissions have been targeted since the 1960's, and standards must be met for all road-going vehicles, the costs of R&D for every car on the road must be considered--which means every manufacturer must be considered individually--along with all retooling costs and actual manufacturing costs. Maintenance costs for emissions equipment plays a role, too, as do any changes in fluids (fuels, oils, etc.) and support items.

No comments: