Guns are not cars

Posted: December 7, 2015 by watsonthethird in Current Events, Guns
Tags: , , ,

I’m always amused when conservatives defend guns by citing the fact that people die in the operation of motor vehicles. The argument goes along these lines: Cars kill and no one is suggesting that cars be banned! Therefore, no one should argue that guns be banned, either.

Why, just the other day our friend Amazona made that very argument:

I do understand that guns are loud, and scary, and that they are very very intimidating. But so are cars and trucks. More people are killed by drunk drivers than by guns, yet there is no demand to take cars off the road, or make them harder to buy or own. In this case, it is understood that the culprit is the driver, not the car. Even when cars are purposely used to inflict harm or death, being driven into crowds or at police officers, there is no cry to restrict car ownership. But we KNOW cars. We are familiar with them, we grew up around them, we handle them on a daily basis, and we know how to handle them. Most people don’t know guns, so they are alien and outside their frames of reference, and all these people think they know is that guns are dangerous. And they are, if used improperly.

Let’s unpack this a bit.

First, her claim that “more people are killed by drunk drivers than by guns” is simply not true, regardless of the certainty in which she states it. It is telling that she rattles off such statistics without bothering to provide a source–telling only in the sense that she would not have found a source. She simply believes it to be so because it fits her narrative.

The facts, according to the Center For Disease Control, are that in 2013, 10,076 people were killed in “alcohol-impaired driving crashes.” In the same year the CDC reported that 33,636 people were killed by guns. It is true that, as of 2013, about the same number of people were killed by motor vehicles—33,804—as were killed by firearms—33,636. But it may well be the case that once the 2015 statistics are available, more people in America are killed by guns than by automobiles. (I wonder if tired will work up the nerve to gently correct her, since no one else is allowed. Be a man, tired! You can do it!)

But aside from telling fibs, the comparison of guns to automobiles comes up short in a few ways. First, automobile manufacturers are subject to regulations that increase the safety of automobiles. Seat belts, airbags and other safety features have evolved and become required features, all in response to injuries and deaths caused by automobile accidents. Cars have become increasingly safe as the years go by. In fact, the number of motor vehicle deaths per mile driven have decreased almost in a straight line ever since records began being kept in 1921. (The number of deaths per mile driven is less than half what it was in 1988.)

Conversely, the gun lobby—namely the NRA—stridently opposes any modifications to firearms that could make them safer. The classic example is what happened to Smith and Wesson a decade or so ago. They proposed a number of new safety measures for their weapons but were nearly put out of business by an NRA boycott. If the gun manufacturers (and owners) were as serious about gun safety as the automobile industry, we would see such safety features evolve and be embraced, if not demanded, by gun owners. Instead, we see an absolute refusal to adopt any such measures.

Second, conservatives who liken cars to guns gloss over the fact that in order to operate an automobile, one must become licensed. One must be trained and must demonstrate that he or she is capable of safely operating a vehicle, and must continuous renew their license over the course of their life. Unsafe drivers lose their ability to drive and can wind up in prison. Guns, on the other hand, can be legally purchased in many cases with no background checks or vetting of any kind, let alone proof that the purchaser is capable of safely handling the gun. As for automobiles themselves, many states require that they be inspected on an annual basis to insure that they are safe to operate.

Third, while the statement that automobiles are familiar to Americans–whereas guns are not–is true (only about 37% of Americans own guns), it ignores the most important point of all, which is that the intrinsic purpose of an automobile is transportation, whereas the sole intrinsic purpose of a handgun or assault rifle is to kill other human beings as efficiently as possible. The statement that guns are dangerous “if used improperly” is true, but it leaves unsaid the case in which they are used properly. The fact is that killing or maiming other human beings is using these weapons exactly as they were intended to be used.

  1. rustybrown2014 says:


    You make some great points, I agree with everything. I strongly feel that a robust licensing program with mandatory training would save a lot of lives. Owning a gun should come with much stricter requirements than owning a car. That said, I’m not sure what you’re getting at when you observe that guns are designed to kill and maim, other than to distinguish them from a comparison to cars and the respective licensing we should require for each. Was that your main point there? Because the fact that guns are designed and produced for killing is not a convincing a priori argument against guns in my opinion. Guns are tools, pretty amazing tools really, and like any tool can be used to benefit mankind or create mayhem. Guns are made to kill–but the fact is some things need killing.

    • Rusty, my point–which perhaps I didn’t make all that well–is that gun worshipers often make the case that most anything can be used to kill another human being–e.g., a car–so why treat guns differently? And sure, I might well be able to kill someone with a well-aimed bash to the head with the corner of this laptop I’m typing on. But the purpose of this laptop is not to kill people, nor is the purpose of a car, or a baseball bat. The purpose of many types of guns is very specifically, and solely, to kill human beings efficiently. In that regard, they do their designed task very well–it only takes the flick of a finger. Based on that, it seems silly to me that from a regulatory point of view we would treat guns just like other objects. They are not just like other objects by design.

  2. everglowz says:

    You are correct. Guns are not cars. But driving a car is not a right its a privilege. However, it is a right to own firearms. And even with all these restrictions and regulations cars still kill more than guns, as you have shown. Even though there are more Guns than cars in this country. So do restrictions and laws really work? Doesnt appear so.

    • rustybrown2014 says:


      As I’m sure you know, the precise meaning of the second Amendment is vague and open to debate and interpretation. Always was, always will be.

      Your conclusion that restrictions are useless based on the comparison of guns to cars is a grave error in logic. First and foremost, while there may be more guns than cars in this country, it’s a certainty that existing cars are USED much more frequently than existing guns. The vast majority of vehicles are used every day, often several times a day, while the vast majority of guns remain in holsters and drawers on your average day, often for months or years at a time.

    • everglows, good to have ya. Rusty beat me to it, but I’ll post my response anyway, even though it overlaps a bit with his.

      Cars kill more people than guns? Statistically speaking, it’s about even. 168 of nearly 34,000 is not a statistically significant difference in a population of over 300,000,000.

      As for the number of vehicles vs. guns, you are correct in that there are about 256 million registered vehicles as compared to an estimated 310 million guns in the US. But your point ignores their respective rates of use. Most Americans use their vehicles every single day, often spending an hour or more in their vehicles. That is not true of guns. Furthermore, only about 37% of Americans own those 310 million guns. Many more Americans drive than own and use firearms.

      As to the question, “So do restrictions and laws really work?”, clearly regulation and laws have been instrumental in reducing the number of deaths caused by motor vehicles per mile driven. As I mentioned above, this statistic has dropped almost every single year since it was first kept in the 1920s, largely because of safety features that have been mandated in motor vehicles.

      As to the right to own firearms, the Second Amendment is not crystal clear in that regard and has long been the subject of interpretation and controversy.

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