One of the perennial arguments in the gun-control debate is pro-gun-control demagogues saying that guns should be licensed just like cars, expecting their listeners to have never thought abut how the two actually compare and thus convince people that still more gun laws are a good idea. Gun owners naturally turn around and point out embarrassing things such as, if guns were licensed just like cars are:
* anyone could own as many guns, of whatever type, as they could afford;
* Shooter's Ed would be a mandatory class in high school (which, actually, wouldn't be a bad idea);
* Not only would automatic weapons be readily available, they'd be the default, and manually operated actions such as bolt or lever actions would be uncommon;
* You could legally take your gun with you to any public place with no special permit required beyond your license, and people wouldn't look funny at you for doing so;
Well, you get the idea. However, it occurred to me this morning to turn the argument around. Let's look at the other side of it.
What if cars were controlled just like guns now are?
Well, let's consider some of the implications.
* In Washington DC, you couldn't own a car at all, unless it was "grandfathered" in or you were an elected politician. New York would be almost as bad.
* You could possess a car on your own property, but in most states, you would need a special permit in order to operate it on any public road, and if you live within city limits, you'd better have a damned good reason to operate it even on your own property. Some states would have a policy of always issuing the permit unless they had legitimate reason not to, but others would deny the permit for arbitrary reasons and not be required to tell you the reason, and many jurisdictions in such states would have a policy of just saying "No." (Unless, of course, you'd contributed a large sum of money to the Sheriff's re-election campaign. Could be $5,000, could be $10,000, could be $20,000 ... depends. How much money do you have?)
* You'd also be able to operate it at licensed race tracks, of course. However, in many states, you couldn't drive it there, you'd have to transport it in a locked box trailer, and it had better be completely empty fueled , both directions. In some states, if it was found during a routine stop that you had fuel in the same trailer, the car would be considered fueled and you'd be arrested. How you haul the trailer is your own problem ... oxen? 20 mule team?
* You couldn't own an SUV. No-one needs a car that big and powerful.
* No sports cars. No-one needs a car that fast.
* You couldn't own a minivan. No-one needs a vehicle with that much capacity (except the city, of course, which would continue to operate its bus fleets, government exempting itself as it always does from the laws its citizens have to follow).
* You couldn't own a vehicle with an automatic transmission. Everyone knows automatic transmissions are designed solely to make as many gear changes as possible with a single shove of the gas pedal.
* You couldn't own that subcompact 58mpg hybrid any more. Everyone "knows" cars that small aren't safe. There might be some domestic models (yeah, right!), but all imports would be banned.
* Motorcycles, even more so; they'd all be banned. Just way too easy to have one and not be seen. (Most motorcyclists would agree with this. We think it's WAY too easy to own and operate a motorcycle and "not be seen". Many motorcyclists get killed every year by people who "didn't see" them.) And even your bicycle would get funny looks, especially if it's something unusual like a recumbent.
* The Mayor and your Senator would somehow still have no difficulty continuing to operate their chauffeur-driven limos. But what else is new?
* It would be illegal in some states to have a car possessing more than two of, say, a CD player, a sunroof, a trailer hitch, a rear spoiler, alloy wheels, racing stripes, a convertible top, tinted windows, tuner decals, or an aftermarket exhaust system (even if it performed no differently than stock). In some states, certain accessories such as fog lights or convertible tops would be simply illegal, period. Your state might also have a specific list by name of cars you weren't allowed to own for more or less arbitrary, largely cosmetic reasons, and might also vaguely prohibit ownership of any vehicle "substantially similar" to one on the list. Naturally, it would be your responsibility to find out from the state DMV whether a specific car was actually legal for you to own or not, and if they changed their minds later, they might arrest you anyway despite having already told you your car was legal. (They might repeat this cycle several times.)
* It would be a felony to leave your car unsecured where a minor could get access to it.
* In some states, if someone stole your car and committed a crime with it, you could go to jail. Even if you didn't go to jail, you'd never get the car back. State law would most likely require that it be crushed.
* Most car crimes would be committed with Yugo and Ford Pintos. BMW 750s, Porsche and Ferrari would be banned anyway because they were the "preferred vehicle of criminals and gang members". Then after they were banned, the cry would be that the "preferred vehicles of criminals and gang members" were now the Ford Expedition and Dodge Ram charger. Most car crimes would continue to be committed with Yugo and Pintos.
* Some cities would undertake police sweeps of low-income housing projects, during which all vehicles found would be confiscated, legally owned or otherwise. It would be explained that "those people" just weren't to be trusted with cars. After all, someone could get killed.
* Not just anyone would be able to sell cars any more. Selling cars, including your own, would require a special Federal license, possession of which would require accepting that the Federal Department of Motor Vehicles could demand to inspect your vehicle storage, your books, and your papers at any time. If they felt your storage arrangements were inadequately secure, they could seize your vehicles and arrest you. You might get them back, eventually, but it's likely you'd find they'd been defaced by chiseling an evidence tag number into the hood.
* You couldn't sell your own car any more unless you were a licensed dealer. All car sales would have to go through Federally licensed dealers. And you couldn't purchase a car or transfer the title via mail, either. If you bought a car for your wife, son or daughter, that would be termed a straw man purchase and you could go to jail.
* You'd also need a special Federal permit to collect unusual or exotic cars, even if you never drove them. The same inspection law would apply as for a dealer. The Federal Department of Motor Vehicles might make a no-knock raid on you at any time for more or less arbitrary reasons. If they didn't like your face or were having a bad day, they might destroy random examples of your collection of Lamborghini trying to provoke you into doing something they could arrest you for. Or they might just shoot you because they thought the TV remote in your hand was a remote starter for one of your cars.
* In some states, any misdemeanor you should happen to commit while in possession of a motor vehicle, even if the vehicle was not involved and had nothing to do with the misdemeanor, would automatically be elevated to a felony.
* If you were convicted of any felony, or if you'd ever been involuntarily confined in a psychiatric care facility, you would never be allowed to own, operate or have access to a motor vehicle again, even someone else unless you successfully petitioned a superior court for restoration of your driving right.
* Some states would require that you leave a sample "fingerprint" of your tire treads on file with the police department. Supporting this program would cost a large chunk of tax money that would come out of your pocket. The fact that after a thousand miles or so of normal driving, your tire tracks wouldn't even look like that any more, would never even be considered. This program would never solve a single crime, but the state Department of Justice would continue to argue that it was a vital program that must be continued every year.
* Other states would float plans to individually chemically "tag" each gallon of gas sold and track, gallon by gallon, who it was sold to. Concerns that these chemical tagging could react adversely with the fuel and cause fires, or even explosions, would be dismissed out of hand. From time to time, anti-driver politicians would float plans to tax gasoline at a rate of 10,000% to discourage driving.
Again, you get the idea. Right?
Oh, and all of this would be done "for the sake of the children."