Why a certain analogy grinds my gears

Gun regulations are nowhere near as stringent as the regulations we’ve placed on cars and drivers. That is the point of this post.

As a writer, I’m always looking for analogies and metaphors to better illustrate the story I’m trying to tell. But, the current analogy that’s going around comparing drunk driving and cars to mass shootings and guns is about as correct as me writing a sentence that states that the snow falling outside of my window is as white as the soot that sits in the bottom of my fireplace.

I'm in no way an expert on guns or gun control. So please don't take this post as me trying to be. Rather, I'm simply someone who sees a major flaw in an argument. I’m not anti-guns at all; I’m just pro-coherent conversations. So, if we’re going to argue about something as significant as gun control, let’s at least argue using proper facts and—if we’re feeling really crazy—relevant analogies.

The argument that I’ve seen way too often on Facebook, Twitter and even Instagram (the photos are charming, as you can imagine) these days goes something like this: ‎"#GunControl is like trying to reduce drunk driving by making it tougher for SOBER PEOPLE to own cars.”

I hate to sound like an asshole, but no. No, it’s not. At all.

For if someone could obtain a car with the same ease with which they can obtain a gun, the transaction would go something like this:

-You’d walk into a car dealership that does not keep inventory of its cars (as gun-shop owners are not legally required to keep inventory of their guns).

-You could, in fact, walk into this dealership drunk (as the ATF currently can only suggest that gun-shop owners not sell a gun to someone who seems impaired, but can’t legally stop them from doing so—and could, legally, drive your newest purchase off the lot impaired. See Jon Stewart on the sneaky, sneaky way an amendment limiting regulation on the NRA--resulting in ridiculous things like people being allowed to buy guns whilst being schwasted--got passed. SPOILER ALERT: The NRA wrote it.)

-You may or may not have a credit check ran on you (as background checks for guns are legally required by commercial dealers with a federal license but not required in private transactions, i.e. at gun shows).

-You could potentially buy a military tank as a car if you wanted to (as everyday citizens can legally own military-style weapons, i.e. assault rifles).

-You also, depending on the state you live in, may or may not have to register the car (as many states don’t require gun registration), may or may not need a driver’s license (as gun-permit laws vary state-by-state) and would not be required to have insurance on the car. (*I further looked up gun insurance and one of the first links I came to was this one from the NRA offering two gun insurance options: one for accident coverage, another for property coverage. A paragraph describing the latter states: "Of course, no registration of your gun or serial numbers are required." The equivalent of that would be getting insurance on an unregistered car without having to give the insurance company your VIN number.)

The point is, we do not regulate guns as strictly as we regulate cars. At all. So, if we're going to use the "guns are like cars" analogy in the argument, then it should be used to support gun control, not oppose it. 

The argument that “we don’t blame cars for drunk driving” is a bit pointless. Of course we don’t blame cars for drunk driving. Just as we aren’t blaming guns for mass shootings. But we do regulate cars and drivers in order to help keep drunk driving and other crimes under control.

Think: The person who’s gotten one too many DUIs and now has a breathalyzer attached to their starter that they must blow into in order to prove sobriety and start the car.

Think: The stipulation that one must have a license in order to drive a car, must register their car and any driving offenses—from traffic tickets to DUIs—go on their driving record. (Currently, the ATF is not allowed to keep a registry of gun transactions.)

Think: The fact that while a driver—with a proper license, registration and insurance—is of course allowed to operate a car, they are not allowed to drive a tank down the road. Or a Nascar. (Yet, currently, everyday citizens are allowed to own military-style assault weapons.)

So, gun-lovers: I get it. I really do. You don’t want The Man telling you what you can and can’t do. I’m not a huge fan of The Man myself. But I do understand that the government exists for a purpose. That, ideally, the president’s job is to keep the country’s citizens safe. And, I have to say, I feel that’s exactly what President Obama is trying to do with his new proposals.

He’s asking that congress pass a law banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. The car-equivalent of this, as mentioned before, would be like the laws we already have in place telling us what cars are and aren’t street-legal, what cars a citizen can and can’t own—i.e. military tanks.

He’s also asking that background checks be required universally, just as credit checks are ran when purchasing a car. *He’s not even asking that the ATF create a federal registrar of gun transactions, which would be a highly effective measure. (The car-equivalent of this is the law we have in place that requires all vehicles to be registered. *Read about this in Don Perata's article, "State can register cars; why not gun?")

Of course new gun legislation isn't the end-all-be-all. We definitely need to look at other things as well—like mental health care in this country and our obsession with violence, perhaps in particular with violence in the media as it relates to young males (i.e. the pressure put on young males to act tough to prove their manhood). President Obama's plan, I will say, does include some initiatives in the mental-healthcare realm as well as regulations on firearms.  (Read a breakdown of the entire proposal here.) 

I do not falsely believe that gun laws alone (or any other laws, for that matter) will completely prevent any further tragedies. Just as I don’t falsely believe that making driving under the influence illegal prevents all DUIs. But it does help. In fact, after enacting tougher legislation aimed at reducing the amount of DUIs (ticketing bartenders who serve an already-impaired person, increasing the national drinking age to 21, etc), DUIs were reduced by two-thirds. (Thank you, Jon Stewart.) Laws aren’t fool-proof, of course, but they do indeed help.

And that’s all anyone is trying to do here: to help. To help regulate guns so that an average person can’t indeed own a military-style weapon that has no place in the hands of the everyday citizen. (You can’t hunt with assault rifles as they destroy your prey. So what, I ask, is the purpose of owning one?) To help make sure that a gunman can’t walk in a school and fire 60 or 100 rounds without having to reload by banning high-capacity magazines. (If you’re an average, everyday gun owner, why would you need a high-capacity magazine, anyways? What could you possibly need to shoot 60 times while not having the time to reload? Aside from the creator of that Gangnam Style song, of course.)

And then there’s the slippery-slope argument: If the president is banning assault rifles today, then what’s to stop him from banning handguns tomorrow? Well, first of all, congress. Congress is what’s to stop him. And judging by the way they’ve treated the majority of his proposed legislation over the past four years and change, they’d have no problem doing so.

And second of all, did anyone ever present the slippery-slope argument when this nation was enacting laws to help reduce the number of DUIs? The car-equivalent of the slippery-slope argument would sound something like this: Well if we employ a law that says we can’t drive our cars while drunk then what’s to stop the government from employing a law that we can’t drive our cars after eating Mexican food? Or banning cars all together? Sounds a bit silly when you look at it that way, doesn’t it?

And silly is what all of this is indeed. It shouldn’t be about pro-guns verses anti-guns and pro-gun control versus anti-gun control. I, in fact, am pro-guns while also being pro-gun control. All the president is asking is that we regulate guns. It’s not an all-or-nothing argument (although Fox news may make it out to be). It’s the idea that citizens should be allowed to own guns—as many as they want—but should be stopped from obtaining guns that were solely meant for warfare and, also, should be regulated in the process of purchasing their guns. Just as someone is regulated in the process of purchasing a car.

The point is: The Man doesn’t want to take your guns anymore than he wants to take your Dually. And that Dually, by the way, is regulated far more strictly than your guns ever will be.