Dangerous Weapons

I grew up in a military family, married an Air Force pilot, and served in the Air Force myself. So I’m not ‘anti-weapon’ or ‘anti-firearms’. I also lived in Texas for a number of years, so I understand the culture that makes people want to own firearms for their own use. I’m not taking a position on whether that culture is correct or not – it’s a culture just as much as an ‘anti-firearms’ culture is.

The people I know who own personal firearms are extremely responsible with them. They are licensed, follow the rules, and treat their firearms as potentially dangerous weapons. They understand that if they are not responsible with them, the firearms can get into the hands of someone who might be irresponsible, careless, or reckless, and thus endanger himself and others. In fact, my friends who own firearms have a heightened sense of responsibility and caution because they understand the risk and danger. They act accordingly, ensuring that the firearm is always in their control, and when they are using it, using it in the safest manner possible.

Without a person in control of them, firearms are just pieces of metal and other materials with no ability to be dangerous on their own.

Think about this parallel.

Without a person in control of them, motor vehicles (cars, trucks) are just pieces of metal and other materials with no ability to be dangerous on their own.

Like responsible firearms owners, people who drive cars responsibly are those who keep them licensed, in good repair so they’re not dangerous (i.e, brakes, turn signals), and who use them responsibly by following the law. We all like to think that’s us.

However, when we speed, or turn right on red without stopping and looking, run a light, allow ourselves to be distracted by a device or conversation — we have changed from a responsible owner of a vehicle into the person in control of a 2-ton weapon.

Two tons of steel is inherently dangerous if it is in motion without full control by its operator.  As the person who might be stepping into that crosswalk when you slide right on red, or the person on the bike (whether in a bike lane or in a travel lane) in front of or near you, you owe it to me to be a responsible user of your vehicle. As the driver of a vehicle I owe it to the more vulnerable users in my environment to exercise a higher standard of care and attention to my surroundings.

The fact of the matter is that if a 2-ton vehicle collides with a soft human body, it’s often game over for that soft human body. And the 2-ton vehicle is not going to collide with that soft human body without the assistance of the driver. SOMEONE is either in full control of that vehicle or not.

As drivers we must ALWAYS be aware of our surroundings. We must ALWAYS be aware that our cars can go from convenience to killer in a matter of seconds. And we must be cognizant that even if that soft human body isn’t where it is supposed to be (crosswalk, trail) we may kill them if we allow our attention to lapse for even 3 seconds.

It’s not about who is “right” or “wrong”. It’s about the unequal distribution of power/harm if an impact occurs. The person with the greatest potential for damage to others should have the greatest obligation for care and caution.

Don’t we advocate this for firearms owners? Don’t we demand, through regulation and social pressure, that those owners exercise an inordinately high level of control and good mental health? Why do we not require that of drivers of cars?

 

When there is a shooting, do we rush to say all those victims should have been elsewhere? Do we dissect the motives of the people who have been harmed? I realize this analogy breaks down when talking about shootings within criminal activities as the shooters and victims are often equally dirty. However, the vast majority of shootings that generate outrage and calls for demonizing of all firearms owners are those where the victims are truly innocents.

Compare then the situation when a person driving a car hits a pedestrian or person on a bicycle. The rush to judgment is swift and sure and sounds like, “In what way did the person struck contribute to his/her fate?” Even in cases where the driver is intoxicated or shown to have been distracted by a cell phone, there’s a certain measure of, “Oh, those cyclists/pedestrians should not be on the roads anyway (even where there is a bike lane). What do they expect?”

I am a pedestrian. I am a person on a bicycle. I am a driver of a car. I have to own all of those labels and the risks and responsibilities of each. But in only one of those roles am I highly likely to kill another human being if I lapse into inattention or lawlessness.

Be safe out there – whatever your mode of travel.

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