INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. - So there is this device that is in widespread use - almost every family has at least one. Used carelessly or incorrectly it can do damage or even create lethal effects. It is often used in the commission of crimes, and theft of the device itself is a common crime.
This device must be registered - anyone who wishes to own one has to give personal information and obtain insurance against its misuse. The owner is required to display evidence of registration prominently, and every device has a unique identification number so even if it is found without the evidence of registration, the owner can be identified and located.
Further, even non-owners of the device must be licensed if they wish to use one. The licensing involves extensive testing on knowledge of the rules for operating the device and practical operation of the device under real-world conditions.
If a used device is sold, the sale must be registered with the government and the buyer is subject to all the above requirements. If the device is retired or destroyed, its registration must be canceled.
Improper or illegal operation of the device can result in revocation of the operator's license, confiscation of their registration, and cancellation of their insurance.
Notwithstanding all this, there is almost no resistance to the registration, licensing and insurance requirements. Registration and license fees provide significant revenue to government agencies, and insurance provides a substantial private market as well. To date no government has undertaken a mass confiscation of these devices, nor has their use been significantly restricted - in fact there are more of these devices in private ownership than at any time in history.
I suspect you've figured out by now that the device in question is motor vehicles - cars, trucks, motorcycles, etc. If someone proposed the above set of requirements for gun ownership, however, the outcry from the NRA and its disciples would be loud and long.
Why do we have this whole system for vehicle registration? Because while cars don't kill people, people in cars kill people at a rate very close to the rate at which people with guns kill people. Yet no one worries that the government is coming to take their cars, no one threatens revolt if cars are regulated, and no one much worries about car registration.
The current debate on gun control has given rise to a whole raft of nonsense. "Gun ownership is a mainstay of American culture." Hogwash - 39 percent of US households own guns; 95 percent own cars. Even if the 39 percent figure is low, it's still not close to car ownership. Yet the rates of fatalities by cars and by guns are, by all accounts very close.
"Gun ownership is a God-given right." Errant nonsense, and also the usual right-wing cherry picking of the Bible.
"The Second Amendment guarantees my right to own guns." This is true by usage if not by intent. The Second Amendment says "A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." The ownership argument never bothers with that first part - it seems to me that "well-regulated" is a good argument for (wait for it) REGULATION! Also, by way of intent, there is a school of thought that the Second Amendment was created to appease southern states, and the "militias" referred to were slave-catching vigilantes.
And finally, who exactly is the NRA working for? Poll after poll indicates that the views of a significant majority of its membership on regulation are not nearly as extreme as what its leadership espouse, and while La Pierre and his cronies scream about the government "coming for your guns," not one person in government from the President on down has put confiscation forth as even an idea.
I don't know about you, but I have to think that the corporate leadership of the NRA have some other agenda. I don't know what it is, but it's not hard to make some educated guesses. According to research reported on the National Gun Forum website, LaPierre, the Executive Vice President of this non-profit organization, pocketed about $950,000 in compensation in 2005.
It's not a leap to suppose that he and others in the NRA have a vested interest in keeping the funds coming in, and scaring gun owners seems to work for that. And of course there is also the cash that comes in from gun manufacturers and others.
I'm just sayin' - maybe the NRA is to the interests of gun owners as Lance Armstrong is to the interests of competitive cycling.
- Ed Gurowitz has lived in Incline Village since 1995 and is active in the Democratic Party. He can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org. His photograph is courtesy of Danielle Hankinson Photography.