Cell phones versus guns

On my last trip to Idaho from the Seattle area got caught up on the Gun Nuts Radio podcasts. I think it was Breda that said in one of them that she didn’t see what the big deal was with carrying a gun. She asked (IIRC), “Why should it be any different than carrying a cell phone or flashlight on your belt?”

Good question. I shoot probably 10,000 rounds a year but I don’t participate in anywhere near that many phone calls or turn on the flashlight (I carry all three on my belt most of the time). By some measures it could be said that I use my gun far more than my cell phone.

Americans buy between five and nine billion rounds of ammunition each year yet there are only about 10,000 murders and 700 accidental deaths by gunshot each year. Something on the order of 0.0002% of those rounds of ammo result in the illegal death of someone. I wonder what the percentage of telephone calls are involved in illegal activity? My bet is that even if you were to use “criminal use of ammunition” the rate of phone call crime is much higher than for ammunition as well. And the ammunition death rate versus the involvement of cars in accidental deaths makes cars look like a guaranteed death sentence. Yet there are very few people trying to ban cars.

And another thing… why do we have enhanced sentencing for crimes involving a gun but not enhanced sentencing for crimes involving cell phones or cars? Isn’t it unconstitutional to have enhanced sentences for blacks and Jews? So why enhanced sentences for gun owners?

10 thoughts on “Cell phones versus guns

  1. The analogy falls apart at that point, though. The enhanced sentencing isn’t for a class of people (gun owners) but rather for the use of a particular tool in the commission of a crime. If, for example, New Jersey doubled to penalty for speeding for gun owners, that would be a better analogy.

    Not that I disagree with the sentiment, though. The intent of enhanced sentencing for gun crimes is to make guns seem more inherently evil than other tools.

  2. Patrick, there have been lots of cases where the gun was merely in the car when someone was buying some drugs nearby. It wasn’t a tool used in the commission of the crime.

    I do agree I was stretching the analogy some, but not as much as you seem to think.

  3. I don’t understand why pro-gun people equate the class of “gun owners” with “blacks” and “Jews.”

    Blacks don’t get a choice of what color they are going to be. They get what they are born with. Likewise, being Jewish isn’t a choice for someone born of two Jewish parents, particularly if they are born in Israel.

    “Gun owner” is an issue of choice.

  4. ubu52,

    Would you be more comfortable with the analogy if it referred to interracial marriage?

    But I don’t have to concede even that much because (perhaps I haven’t made this clear before) gun owners are a constitutionally protected class just as differences of race and religions are constitutionally protected from discrimination. Choice doesn’t matter in this context.

    I will grant that you could make a stronger case for changing the constitution to remove protections for gun owners (and perhaps religion–there are some “interesting” edge cases) than for removing constitutional protections for differences of race because people could choose to stop being gun owners. But, in the present context, we aren’t talking about changes to the constitution.

  5. The only constitutional protection for gun owners is that they are allowed to “keep and bear” guns. Following your thinking, alcoholics are a constitutionally protected class too.

    Being a gun owner doesn’t give you any special rights. You can still be discriminated against because there is nothing in the Constitution that says you can’t be.

  6. Could you elaborate on the “alcoholics are a constitutionally protected class” concept? You lost me on that one.

    The right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed seems to me to mean a pretty strong statement that gun owners cannot be discriminated against. I think one could even argue that is greater protection than that given to religion in the first amendment.

    Am I missing something in your argument? Please elaborate because I think one or the other of us is missing something the other is saying–and I’m not sure who it is…

  7. 18th & 21st Amendments? (Prohibition)

    I think we are looking at it from different viewpoints. For instance, companies don’t have to hire gun owners. They can simply refuse to just like they can refuse to hire drug addicts, smokers, alcoholics, people who play bingo or folks wearing brown pants. They can refuse to hire people based on a lot of different things UNLESS they are in the “protected classes” (ie. Religion, race, sex, age, etc.)

    From that angle, gun owners are not a protected class, though I don’t believe it’s ever been tested in court.

  8. The 21st amendment repealed the 18th, once again allowing production, transportation and sale of alcohol by law abiding citizens (it was always possible for law breakers, except that Prohibition made it extremely profitable) but the 21st said nothing of the abuse of alcohol. Therefore alcoholics are not a “constitutionally protected” class. Armed robbers aren’t protected by the 2nd amendment any more than drunk drivers are protected by the 21st. The difference is in the abuse of the product, which is an entirely different subject from “keeping and bearing” arms, or from “transportation or importation” of intoxicating liquors.

    That being said, there is more tolerance of alcoholics (so long as they’re not driving) than of gun owners in some quarters. How many laws can you find that can put you in jail for possession of the “wrong” type of liquor, for example, or for having liquor bottles that hold too many shots, or how many state registries can you find showing which brands or proofs are banned, etc.? Will your carrying a flask to a political rally make the national headlines? Do you need a permit to carry a flask without risking a jail sentence?

    There’s no comparison between alcohol and guns when it comes to the treatment you’ll get for merely carrying one verses the other. If you threaten someone by pointing a gun at them, it’s assault, same as if you lunge at someone with a broken beer bottle.

    Lets not allow ourselves to be confused. The issues of murder, assault, reckless endangerment and the like have no bearing on the issue of manufacture, transportation, sale or possession in a responsible manner, or in a manner that violates no other person’s rights.

  9. [The following was being composed prior to Lyle posting the above. There is a considerable amount of duplication of points. Sorry about that but I don’t want to bother editing it.]

    I’m somewhat familiar with the 18th and 21st Amendments. But they didn’t protect the usage to the point of abuse (“alcoholics”) as you indicated. Just as the 2nd amendment doesn’t protect the right to keep and bear arms to the point of abuse (such as accidental or intentional injury to innocent people or the property of others).

    I’m generally referring to government infringement of the rights of gun owners rather than private individuals/companies that do so. But there is case law in some states that indicates courts could be obliged to extend protection to gun owners. But that is a topic for another day.

    In general the government is held to a higher standard of behavior in regards to discrimination against protected classes than are individuals and/or companies. For example a company could refuse to do business with you if you were known to be active in the Democrat (or Republican) parties. The government could not (legally) refuse you police and/or fire services or require you pay double the tax rate because of your political stance.

    For the government to say that because you have a gun in the trunk of your car while you are buy/selling an illegal drug in the restroom of the rest stop you have to spend an extra five years in jail compared to someone who did not have a gun in his car is a type of discrimination similar to “double taxes” if you vote Republican (or Democrat). This is because free speech and freedom of association are constitutionally protected.

    I claim it is not comparable to discriminating against drug addicts, smokers, alcoholics, people who play bingo, or folks wearing brown pants because these are not constitutionally protected even though none of them are necessarily (drug addicts may be an edge case) illegal. There is a difference between an activity being legal (wearing brown pants) and the activity being constitutionally protected (keep and bear arms, freedom of association, freedom of religion, etc.).

  10. “I’m generally referring to government infringement of the rights of gun owners rather than private individuals/companies that do so. But there is case law in some states that indicates court could be obliged to extend protection to gun owners. But that is a topic for another day.”

    Ha! I think this is where we failed to connect. We were talking two different things. It would be a good topic for another day.

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