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« Big Red Bicycle Christmas | Main | The Ripple Effect »

Freedom and People Killing People

Because of recent tragic events there is a public outcry both for and against gun control. “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.”

Yes but a gun is a tool for killing people and it works extremely efficiently. If a person goes ape shit with a knife or a baseball bat, he is unlikely to kill as many people as he would armed with a semi-automatic gun.

I am not against gun ownership; I don’t own one, but if crime got really bad in my neighborhood I might buy one to protect myself and my home.

But another issue is being forgotten in this whole debate; and it boils down to the same thing: Individual Freedom. And if one man’s freedom results in another losing their ultimate freedom… Their life, something is terribly wrong. If I am dead I have lost my freedom; forever.

I speak of those who lose their lives on the streets and highways every day. Roughly 90 people die every day in America alone; killed by automobiles. Many of these are children who die inside cars or are hit by cars. None of these children will have their pictures all over the national media. Why not; they are just as innocent?

It is the exactly the same argument: Cars don’t kill people; people driving cars kill people. People driving carelessly, aggressively, or distracted. It is really quite simple, if you can’t drive your car between two lines painted on a highway without running into someone, maybe you should not be driving a car.

In the same way if you can’t own a gun without shooting some innocent person, then you shouldn’t be allowed to own a gun. In fact people who own and drive automobiles get away with far more than a gun owner would, and the scary thing is it is accepted by the general population.

Threaten or intimidate someone with a gun and a person would be in serious trouble. But threaten or intimidate someone with a car… Happens all the time.

Hit and kill or seriously injure someone with a car, then say, “Sorry, I didn’t see them.” Chances are there will be no charges, no consequences. Try that defense if you accidently shoot someone. “I’m sorry I didn’t see the person standing there when I fired the gun in that direction.” I doubt that would stand up in a court of law.

If a person gets hit and killed by a stray bullet in a drive by shooting, or he gets hit and killed by a car while walking or riding his bike, it makes little difference to that person. He is dead either way.

For the person hit by a stray bullet, the police will put all their resources into finding the person responsible and bring them to justice. Family and loved ones will have some kind of closure.

For family of the person run down by the car, there will be no such closure. There will most likely be no serious consequences for the person responsible. It will be labeled just an unfortunate “Accident.”

It is argued that people should not be allowed to own an Assault Rifle that fires multiple rounds; if they are allowed to own such weapons then there should be some serious back ground checks and more important; special training.

Buy the same rule it could be argued a person doesn't really need a vehicle that will do 100 mph. or 0 to 60 in 4 seconds, or whatever cars are capable of these days. A car is a vehicle for personal transport, to get its owner from A to B. It does not have to be a big as a small house, or reach 100 mph.

If freedom says it is only right a person should be allowed to own such a vehicle, maybe this too should come with some stringent driving record checks, along with questions why you need a machine with so much power?

Above all there should be some serious training before driving this potential killing machine, and serious consequences if you kill or maim someone.

People with criminal records are banned for life from legally owning a gun, even if they have not killed anyone; they forfeit that freedom. Yet people, who kill people with cars, forfeit very little.

And the craziest thing of all, car ownership is not in the written into the constitution. There is no right to drive, like the right to bear arms.



Reader Comments (27)

You hit the nail on the head. In the month after 9/11 the same number of people died in automobiles on our nation's roadways. The news media could have cared less.

We accept automobile deaths. Personally and sociologically. Although I was only a police officer for a few year the death and destruction I saw at the hands of careless drivers still haunts me. And the injuries? Great God, don't get me started.

I do not own a gun (firearm), nor will I. If the desire to go target shooting gripes me I'll get a top-drawer pellet gun. Pellet guns have killed people but I think the total, worldwide, is somewhere in the neighborhood of a dozen.

And if somebody comes into my house in the middle of the night I'm going out the window. Even with my prior training - at the hands of the U.S. Marine Corps and the San Jose Police Department - I'd prefer that somebody else dealt with the situation.

Now I'm a school teacher. Should I have a gun in my classroom? No.

Do I know how to use a gun? You bet I do.

But would I ever agree to carry a gun in my classroom? I'd quit my job in half-a-heartbeat if anybody told me I had to wear (pack) a gun in my elementary school classroom.

December 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJames Thurber

1.2 million people get killed in car accidents around the world EVERY YEAR.
Compare that with second world war.
Accident are not the only cause of death related to cars. In my country (France), 10 000 people die every year from diseases directly caused by the fumes of diesel engines.
These numbers are insane. That's the kind of number you would expect for tobacco, alcohol or wars.
But nobody cares!

December 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSimon

But the purpose of a car is not to kill people. While there are incidences of drivers purposely "aiming" their vehicle at someone in some act of violent road rage, they are very much the exception. That's why car related deaths are called "accidents"; there being no explicit intention to harm. This is not to say that safer driving and road safety in general shouldn't be much more intensely promoted and sentences for DUI much harsher.
In the case of a gun the instrument if used as designed will harm/kill something or someone. Notwithstanding gun enthusiasts will point to sporting pleasure of target shooting etc. the main reason guns are made is to for the use of personal defense or attack.

December 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJW

What makes you pull the trigger or steer the car? YOUR MIND SET! What affects your mind set? INFLUENCES! Do you think a MONK in a abbey would pull the trigger or steer the wheel? NO they are NOT been influenced by anyone or anything EVIL! As long as there IS evil EVIL will be done. END OF STORY

December 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGRUMPY

I’ll agree that the purpose of a car is not to kill people, and the car itself rarely kills people it is the person in control of the car that causes it to kill people. My point is this; if a person dies by gun shot or by being hit by a car. Are either any less dead, do their loved ones grieve any less that they are gone?
There should be public outrage, but there is none. It is the price we pay for freedom; people’s freedom to drive in any manner that suits them.

December 19, 2012 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

Yes to stringent driving exams before a license is issued or renewed. The tests should vary directly with the horsepower, size and weight of the vehicle.

People with criminal records still buy guns easily. People who have DUI convictions still drive. That is how little value we place on lives in the USA as James T. explains.

Meanwhile public health continues to decline as long as the car culture remains in control: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/19/AR2007041902409.html

In a statement accompanying the World Health Organization report, the organization's new director-general, Margaret Chan, said that "road traffic crashes are not 'accidents.' We need to challenge the notion that they are unavoidable."

December 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJack


Naturally the personal grief at the death of a loved one is felt deeply regardless of the cause. But society accepts accidents/acts of God and illnesses, as the facts of life (no pun intended). Someone deliberately killing another person(s), and this is too often involving firearms in the US, is not viewed as an acceptable risk that one should have to incur as a human being.

December 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJW

Dave: Bravo! I read in today’s paper that gun related deaths did not appreciably change after the assault weapons ban as a result of the Reagan shooting. Nor did they change after it was terminated. Canada demonstrated that the number of murders did not change after a stringent long gun ban was passed, just the weapon used, guns to knives, bats, etc. It's not the tool despite its intended use. I don't believe there are car accidents. Making such a statement is rejecting responsibility. If you do not believe you can responsibly use a tool, don't. Most accidents can be root caused to irresponsible behavior. Responsibility includes both knowing how to use it and how not to use it with understood consequences.

December 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSJX426

Thanks Dave, a really thoughtful post. The difference between cars and guns is that recognizing the inherent dangers, we continue to strive to make cars safer. There are no similar efforts with regards to guns.

December 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTim J

Tim J, cars are safer -- for occupants. Because of this, I'm convinced that drivers are less cautious than they would be if they believed they'd suffer serious injury or death if they allow themselves to be what is softly called distracted. Cars are not safer for those outside the car who are not protected by a protective shroud of metal.

The root issue is that people (including children) are killed daily by drivers, but this is accepted as normal, not worthy of much comment by the mainstream media. A driver is likely to escape any serious inconvenience if he or she kills someone with a car. It's enough to say that "I didn't see him" even if the cyclist or pedestrian is lit up like a neon Christmas tree. This sorry state of affairs will continue until society becomes serious about calling driver-caused deaths what they are -- manslaughter at best, murder at worst.

Take away a driver's license, car, and freedom if she or he causes death when driving. That will have will begin to make the roads safer for everyone.

December 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoe J.

Something I forgot until I read Dave's post:
Driving is a priviledge, owning a gun/firearm is a right, specifically mentioned in our constitution. Odd, right?

December 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterP Vasiliou

I recently saw the best bumper sticker I've seen in years. It said: "Guns Don't Kill People, Drivers With Cell Phones Kill People". I work in one of the most dangerous and violent cities in America in a neighborhood mostly abandoned by the police department and I occasionally have to confront questionable people outside my building, but I'm certain I'm much more likely to be killed or maimed riding my bike home through my quiet, "safe" hometown. Too many dangerous people have guns, but every dangerous person drives a car.

December 19, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercrankyrigger

Every day I see drivers zip past me texting on their smart phones. They are holding the phone directly in front of their face while behind the wheel of a 2 ton vehicle barrelling down the road at 35, 45, 75+ miles per hour. It would be simple to add a safety feature to all of these phones that would disable texting if the phone began moving at speeds greater than 10 miles per hour. Very simple. But our society would never allow it. So we will continue to intentionally kill, mangle and permanently disable children (and anyone else that gets in our way) into the future because we can not control our addition.

December 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTony


You've hit some of the right notes in this piece.

I've been thinking about this for a long time, and I've come to the conclusion that the automobile lobby is every bit as strong and influential as the gun lobby.

They lobby against better rail/public transportation and their bought-and-paid-for politicians will usually toe the line (even in dense metropolitan areas). They lobby for wider lanes, so their massive cars can drive around (who cares about the bike lanes?). Most importantly, the public have been brainwashed to think that they cannot live without cars (true, in a lot of the US).

I've been campaigning for stricter driving tests and licensing requirements. Why should there be anything wrong with proving that you know the laws, and can still pass a driving test every 5 years or so? Just because you took a test at 16 doesn't mean you can still competently operate a vehicle when you're 75.

Nobody pays attention.

What about stricter restrictions imposed after you break the law? Caught using a cellphone while driving? - okay, we'll take away your license for a week. No! Heaven forbid that we should inconvenience someone like that!

And nobody weeps for the innocents.

December 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohann

I agree Dave. Except... There are seven billion people in the world right now and we need way fewer. We can control diseases and live long lives here in the first world. It strikes me as only fair that we kill some of our own to go some way to balance the deaths in the developing world. There it is "natural" deaths, here we need all the artifical means we can get!

December 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPBA

The USA has approx 5 times the population of the UK - 300m v 60m. It has 15 times the annual road deaths just over 30'000 v around 2'000. If UK roads are 3 times safer there is vast scope for improvement in the USA.

If the USA had the same road safety as the UK 20'000 fewer people would die per year. arguably some of the difference may be down to the number of vehicles per head of population and distance driven but IMO most of the difference is due to other factors like driver licensing and training, roads engineering and criminal justice systems.

December 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTed

My assesment is that the gun lobby isn't anywhere as stong as the car lobby. I don't think the government would bail out any gun manufacturer, including Winchester which has changed hands multiple times in its history. This inspite of all the business gun and related manufacturer do with the government.
BTW: Guns are as safe as they ever will be, they have been around a lot longer than cars or trucks or airplanes or bicycles. The safety rests with the operator.

December 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSJX426

Actually guns are a very poor way to kill people, bullets are only 9% fatal when they hit a human target (CDC 2004) and Army and FBI statistics have only 1 of 20 bullets actually hitting anyone even by accident. Motor vehicles on the other hand are extremely deadly when they hit a human target. Similar studies from the UK and the US done in the 1990s have motor vehicles hitting cyclists or pedestrians as 5% fatal at 20 MPH, jumping sharply to 50% fatal at just 30 MPH (the speed limit for residential streets in Texas and the lowest permanent speed limit allowed without a dispensation from the legislature), 85% fatal at 40 MPH (UK study, 80% US study), more than 95% at 50 MPH, and 99+% at 60 MPH and above. These terminal ballistics get motor vehicles classed as WMD under the Geneva conventions and their use against civilians or unarmed soldiers a war crime.

December 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterOpus the Poet

It also depends on the intent...at least the conscious intent. I'd think almost nobody has the intent to run over a pedestrian or a cyclist. That it happens is due to the drivers being spaced out/distracted/not heaving enough energy to handle the big machines (cars). When somone intends to harm people and takes a gun along, well - the intent is obvious. Yes, the "victim" will be dead whether run over or shot, but the intent is critically important, and in fact a critical deciding factor in karma. If you hit and kill somenone while driving due to being spaced out, yes there probably is some "negative karma", but it probably doesn't pull down your energy. However, if you deliberately shoot someone (and it's not a justify defence), that is a definitely a big hit against your karma and can drag your energy drastically.

December 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMicheal Blue

Follow the money! :-)

December 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDaren


I would suggest that there's not much difference in road safety between the US and UK, if you take into account vehicle miles driven. The US had about 11 or 12 times as many miles of paved roads, also.

December 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPaul S

Forgive me if I say that this is a perfect example of danger of using statistics! Population density must play a part here too, it would seem logical that the important thing is not the amount of road but the density of traffic on it. The more vehicles there are on a given length of road the more likely they are to run into each other.
With a population of around 300M and an area of 9.6M sq km the US has an overall population density of 31 people per sq km. With 60M people crammed into an area the size of Michigan the UK has a population density almost 8 times that of the US and, as most people now have cars, logic would tell you that overall traffic density must be in a similar ratio.
For what it is worth, here in Denmark our population density is 4 times that of the US yet last year there were only 220 traffic fatalities. But then we only have 5.4 million people (in an area the size of Maryland).
I am not suggesting that 'A's drivers are better than B's drivers' but simply that by selecting the right statistics you can lend weight to any argument you choose. Ask the pro-helmet lobby, they have learned to play the game perfectly!

December 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlan Hobbs

Paul S
It doesn't matter the measure - the UK is better than the USA.

Fatalities per billion km UK 5.7 USA 8.5

Fatalities per 100'000 vehicles UK 7 USA 15.

I'm not pretending to know why though. I live in the UK but have driven and cycled quite a few thousand miles in the USA and I don't think the drivers are inherently any better or worse in either country. On balance I think American drivers perhaps are more courteous though that may be biased by the amount of rural and small town cycling I have done.


December 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTed

I agree with much of what the author has to say. I own a gun, car, and bicycle. I am a responsible gun owner, drive my car carefully, and have been hit by a car while riding my bicycle (in a dedicated bicycle lane) to work. I say that just to show that this topic hits home for me in several different ways. I would like to point out a couple of things that maybe a lot of people in the Seattle area (where I live) don't know. In the State of Washington "traffic accidents" are legally referred to as "traffic collisions." That might mean very little to most people, but it is actually very significant because an "accident" implies that no one was "at fault" whereas a "collision" allows someone to be "at fault" for breaking the "rules of the road." The other thing I would like to point out is that the citizens of Seattle WA, particularly bicyclists and pedestrians, should be outraged at the prosecutors office (specifically Pete Holmes) for decriminalizing Driving with a Suspended License (DWLS/3). For those of you who don't know, here's how it works; A person drives a vehicle and commits an infraction, they get a citation, they fail to pay their citation, their driver's license gets suspended until they pay their penalty (that's assuming they ever had a driver's license in the first place, because people who have never even had a driver's license end up with DWLS/3 all the time), if that person with a suspended license gets caught committing another infraction Officers in Seattle use to be able to arrest or at least criminally cite the suspended driver and sometimes impound their car. Unfortunately, with the prosecutors office decriminalizing DWLS/3, Officers in Seattle can no longer arrest for DWLS/3 and when they write a criminal citation for the crime of DWLS/3 it must be sent to the prosecutors office for final determination whether or not to "charge" the driver for the crime. Take a guess at how many DWLS/3 charges the prosecutors office in Seattle has decided to file in the past couple of years... very few. So essentially, there is no punishment to committing driving violations in Seattle. If you don't pay your citation, your driving status will be DWLS/3, however you won't be arrested or charged with a crime if you are stopped for another violation and the crime of DWLS/3. In fact, there is no need to get a license at all, just carry around your WA State ID with a driving status of DWLS/3 and you'll be safe to commit all the "minor" traffic offenses you like (seething sarcasm intended). For those who justify the decriminalization of DWLS/3 on the basis of socioeconomic inequality, there are many people from many different backgrounds that ride bicycles or walk or take public transportation for many different reasons, including it being less expensive than owning a car. As the author pointed out, owning/driving a vehicle is not covered in the Constitution. Driving is not a "right" it is a "privilege" that must be earned and should be taken away if a person is not responsible with that privilege. I am all for freedom, and I think if someone is responsible and follows the rules they should be allowed the privilege of owning/operating a gun, car, or even a bicycle. If that person chooses to not be responsible then that privilege should be taken away. Ok, now I will get off my soap box.

January 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCWG

As accurately as in mechanical engineering Mr. Moulton delivers precision equipment it can be said the same for his accuracy in producing insights into our everyday life both with clarity an calm thus awaking subtle truths.

January 1, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterTom Knoblauch

So GUNS now kill more than Auto's per year.
2014: For the first time in 20 years, Americans are more likely to be killed by a gun than by a motor vehicle.
ACCORDING to data gathered by the Centres for Disease Control (CDC), deaths caused by cars in America are in long-term decline. Improved technology, tougher laws and less driving by young people have all led to safer streets and highways. Deaths by guns, though—the great majority suicides, accidents or domestic violence—have been trending slightly upwards. This year, if the trend continues, they will overtake deaths on the roads.

Since 1968, "more Americans have died from gunfire than died in … all the wars of this country's history."

Deaths from warfare
Revolutionary War 4,435
War of 1812 2,260
Mexican War 13,283
Civil War (Union and Conf.est.) 525,000
Spanish-American War 2,446
World War I 116,516
World War II 405,399
Korean War 36,574
Vietnam War 58,220
Persian Gulf War 383
Afghanistan War 2,175
Iraq War 4,486
Total 1,171,177

Gunfire deaths in the US since 1968
The figures below refer to total deaths caused by firearms:
1968 to 1980 377,000
1981 to 1998 620,525
1999 to 2010 364,483
2011 32,163
Total 1,384,171

And I felt bad working on WMD's. If you have anything to do with the firearms industry in the US you are making nails for the coffins of your fellow citizens.

NOTE: These figures refer to all gun-fire related deaths -- not just homicides, but also suicides and accidental deaths. In 2011, about
one-quarter of firearm-related deaths were homicides, according to FBI and CDC data. Using total firearm-related deaths makes the case against guns more dramatic than just using homicides alone.

January 11, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNuke Thermo

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but while guns dont kill people. People WITH guns do. Think about it.

March 14, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPaul
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