It’s become an uncomfortable familiarity: innocent children killed in a school shooting and subsequent political pandering shouted from both sides ad nauseam. Some call for gun control, some blame the NRA, some blame “gun free zones,” and so on and so forth.
I’m a gun owner. I own three rifles and I want to buy an AR-15 because this is America and I think I should have the freedom to do that. It looks like a cool gun and I think I would enjoy shooting it.
Does that make you angry? That I want to buy a weapon that was recently used in the slaughter of children simply because I can? If it does, I understand. It seems so arbitrary and inherently violent—almost “evil”—to own it, especially when there’s no need for it.
If I said I wanted to get a car that could top out at 150mph and did zero to 60 in 3.4 seconds, would you care? Nah, you’d probably think that was pretty cool. Or what if you were riding in the car with me and I was texting and driving? Or if I said, “I probably wasn’t that drunk when I drove home the other night”? Does it trigger the same response as me wanting that gun? I doubt it. In fact, I bet many of you have participated in some of those scenarios and forgiven yourself afterward because everything turned out fine.
The debate over gun control is fine and necessary. We should criticize easy accessibility to weapons, especially to the mentally unfit. We should absolutely throw the NRA under the bus for continually lobbying to prevent the CDC from studying gun violence; however, we need to recognize that legal gun owners generally don’t kill people willy-nilly and going after legal guns is more impulsive than anything.
If we’re going to debate an object of death, get outraged equally. Cars kill, indiscriminately, many more people than guns every year. In our society, the “background check” for a car is a joke. “16 years old? Know how to parallel park? Cry during your driver’s test to pass? Great! Here’s a 2-ton metal death machine that you can drive as fast as you want. It comes with marginal training, zero limitations, and zero safeties for speed. Be back by eleven!”
Guns, while designed to kill, are nothing without the motive attached to them (gang shootouts, domestic disputes, suicides, etc.) Very rarely is gun violence random, so we don’t treat it as “random.” We don’t accept gun deaths as a “necessary evil” or “status quo.” We get sad, angry and frustrated.
But what about car crashes? There was a family in Illinois last year: A pregnant mother, her three children (1, 4, and 6) were all killed on their way to vacation Bible school when a driver blew a stop sign. In moments, a proud father and husband became a heartbroken survivor. The man who hit them walked away from the accident without injury and might get 10 years in jail. This was a tragic, unnecessary loss of life.
Where was the outrage? The calls for legislation? The politician photo ops? The pressure on “big car” to do something? It didn’t happen. There was just a man left to pick up the pieces of his broken life.
This, by government standards, would be considered a “mass shooting” if a gun were involved. It would be chalked up on the board next to all the others we’ve had and used as a weaponized statistic.
See why this debate frustrates me? Gun deaths are bad and they are often times preventable, but so are car deaths. The difference is that we’ve accepted car deaths as a natural order of a system that we’ve created. A system that we both maintain and perpetuate, with little ability to change it.
America, much like guns, has the highest rate of automobile accidents in the developed world. Statistically, it’s the most likely way for any child to die, but we’ve all been told that it’s “the way of life.” If guns and cars got into a “who can kill more people” contest, guns would be crushed by the sheer loss of life caused by cars (abstaining gun suicides).
Much like the Florida shooting, kids didn’t ask for this nor do they deserve it. This death cult was forced upon them, and now we’re sacrificing them on an altar of drive-thrus and “personal space.” But, at least cars come with wifi now, so it’s probably all worth it.
I’m sure you’ll point me to an article that talks about how much progress we’ve made in car safety and how we could use that same strategy for guns, but that’s not the point. With firearms, you can at least lower your chances of being killed by a gun by not owning one yourself. Cars, however, are forced upon the majority of Americans. We get, ostensibly, no choice in whether we can own a car, whether we have to risk our lives every day just to get to work.
Even if you had the opportunity to live without a car, you’re still at a huge risk for being hit by one, your taxes are still being gobbled up to support them, and you’re simply a drop in the bucket for promoting change (i.e. you’re not making a difference, sorry). If the amount of money that we spent on unnecessary roads was diverted to making sure the wrong people didn’t get guns, we would see a precipitous drop in gun homicides.
Americans have become addicted to outrage, but only when it’s an event that stands out. A tragedy that says, “this was too much, something has to change.” It’s sad that we’ve had to act this out over and over again for gun violence without much effect. What’s even sadder, though, is that we’ve simply allowed this creeping death by car to be part of our way of life, a dull pain stuck to us that we’ve learned to ignore.
It’s been 9 weeks since the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. On that day, 17 children had their future stolen from them by a deranged gunman. In that same time period, about 3,600 people (on average) have been killed in car crashes. Do you know any of their names? Any of their stories? Any of the people left behind?
No, you don’t—and I don’t either. That’s what makes me so mad. It could be my mom and dad, my sister or brother, my wife and child.
I’m not asking you to be less upset about gun violence. Keep that righteous anger and use it to effect change. All I’m asking is that you have enough to share with the victims of a broken, backward transportation system that attacks all of us.