Friday, December 11, 2015

Rules of the Road

I engage in an extremely dangerous and life-threatening activity almost every day… one that has the potential to seriously injure or kill me, no matter what I say or do.

I try not to think too much about it, otherwise I’d simply not participate.  I accept the risks and do everything possible to increase my chances for survival. The odds are in my favor, but eventually my luck could run out and there ain’t a damned thing I can do about it other than not participate at all.

What is this dangerous and unavoidable activity that has me concerned about my personal safety?

It’s called ‘driving my van on the freeway’.

Think about it: I’m driving a 3500-pound projectile at 75mph alongside dozens of other projectiles, all being driven by people that I will never know, people who could be drunk or high or stoned or sleepy or depressed or distracted or angry or upset or insane or otherwise in no condition to be driving a projectile at high speed. I take it on faith that the dozens of projectiles surrounding me will continue to stay in their lanes, that the operating humans will pay attention to the task at hand and not crash me into oblivion.

Unless they're texting, in which case all bets are off.  Dumbasses.

Thankfully, this life-threatening activity so many of us take part in is considered dangerous enough to be heavily regulated to mitigate disaster which, for the most part, drastically reduces the carnage.

But those regulations cannot and do not eliminate the carnage… they only reduce the carnage.

Our high-speed projectiles are regulated in so many ways it can make your head spin.  There are seat belts and air bags and warning lights and crush zones.  Regulations to ensure the tires don’t explode, the fuel doesn’t self-ignite, the seats don’t fly apart, the headlights shine far and bright enough, the glass doesn’t shatter or implode, the interior fabric doesn’t suffocate us, the fasteners don’t slip off or fail, the exhaust doesn’t poison us, the electrical system doesn’t electrocute us, ad nauseum.

As a result of the massive number of regulations, the projectiles have become amazingly safe to operate at high speed without spontaneously exploding into thousands of pieces, turning our fragile bodies into a red gooey mist. Naturally, there are Patriots across the country who HATE REGULATION OF ANY SORT and would prefer the Federal gummint keep its filthy laws out of their Patriotic lives completely. To those Patriots, I offer a hearty Fuck Off.  I like having a safe vehicle that works well, and I'm certain the Patriots haven’t fully analyzed their insane hatred of government enough to realize how dumb their assertions usually are.

But it doesn’t end there, oh no. There are also a massive number of regulations pertaining to the humans who pilot those projectiles, again all in the interest of reducing the carnage, which can never be 100% eliminated.

Anyone can buy one of these projectiles, but the regulations pertain to the legal ownership and operation of one.  It requires studying the established rules for the safe and sane operation of that projectile, taking a written and operational test to ensure the education was effective, whereupon a license is issued to drive the projectile that must be renewed at regular intervals.  The shiny new projectile must also be registered to ensure it is indeed safe to operate. But then you have to acquire liability insurance to cover the projectile just in case you you drive it drunk or high or stoned or sleepy or depressed or distracted or angry or upset or insane or otherwise in no condition to be driving a projectile at high speed and you injure or kill yourself or another human.

All of that is before you even begin to think about heading out onto those dangerous freeways populated with speeding projectiles driven by other humans who may very well be drunk or high or stoned or sleepy or depressed or distracted or angry or upset or insane or otherwise in no condition to be driving a projectile at high speed.

We all depend on the laws and regulations to make sure the projectiles are safe and the humans driving them have been thoroughly trained in the safe and sane operation of projectiles at speed.  There are no guarantees, but overall the system of laws, education and personal adherence to the laws mean I have a pretty damned good chance of doing my 50-mile daily commute without tragedy.

My high-school Driver's Ed teacher always spoke about 'The Rules of the Road'. I totally understood what he was talking about, even way back when in the dark ages of 1972.

If a driver acts lawlessly or with negligent disregard for others and someone gets killed as a result, more often than not they're charged with 'assault with a deadly weapon' (I'm looking at you, Suge) or perhaps 'involuntary manslaughter' or some other nasty legal term. The price paid for that transgression can be serious... not always, but usually.  That's what happens when you break the law, man.

You know where I'm going with this, don't you?

Try as I might, I've been unable to think of anything that we humans use while in proximity to each other that has as much potential for death and destruction as cars and guns.

But guess what:  one of those potentially deadly weapons is heavily-regulated, while the other is so wildly unregulated as to be essentially regulation-free. 

We accept that cars can be dangerous, so most of us also accept the myriad rules and regulations so we can feel somewhat safe while driving our projectiles at 75mph in close proximity to each other.  That's the price we pay to have piece of mind in a civilized society.

Sadly, it ain't the same with guns.

Thanks to a seriously flawed misunderstanding of The Second Amendment to our Constitution, along with an insane lust to fondle deadly weapons, our Exceptional America is experiencing a gun-driven bloodbath unique among the world's industrialized nations. It's so easy to obtain a high-caliber weapon in the US nowadays that the idea of owning one is almost blase'. Our government's actual knowledge of the gun violence, its causes and results are woefully inadequate by design (Thanks, NRA and Republicans!), oversight of purchases and misuse are almost non-existent given the volume of guns purchased, and don't even get me started on the insane idea that if you can buy it, you can use it without ANY training or testing or licensing or insurance.

This has to stop.

Lots of words have been written on this subject, and I'm surely not the only rabid wolverine to place this stake in the blood-soaked ground, but the time has come to treat guns the same way we treat cars, both devices that we use while in close proximity to each other that have the potential to injure or kill ourselves and those around us.

This has nothing to do with quashing individual freedoms, government tyranny, watering the Tree of Liberty with Type O Positive, black helicopters, the wild-eyed fanaticism of every ilk/persuasion/religion/political bent, or any of the archaic and inane reasons spouted by The Armed Ones about why more laws won't make a difference.


Right now, all over our gun-obsessed nation, we're forced to be in close proximity to people who are carrying loaded weapons but may also be drunk or high or stoned or sleepy or depressed or distracted or angry or upset or insane or otherwise in no condition to be armed. We don't know if that person has just been audited by the IRS, been informed their spouse is gay, been fired from their job of 25 years, been called a pussy by their teenage son, found out they have cancer, had their paycheck garnished for child support, had their home taken away by foreclosure, dropped their Big Mac Combo Meal on the floor at lunch... whatever.

We don't know where or how that person got their gun, if they understand how it works, if they've ever fired the weapon, or even if they understand the deadly force they have concealed in their pants, especially if they don't like the way you looked at them while standing in line at Starbuck's.

On the freeway, we have a pretty good idea that everyone around us is trained in the basic operation of their speeding projectile and have accepted the legal and ethical responsibility for doing so.

On the other hand, we have no clue if the person packing heat in your proximity has the faintest notion of how/when/why their weapon could or should be discharged. 


However, we do know that in the same way humans get VERY AGGRESSIVE when they put their hands on the steering wheel, guns have the unique ability to convince their owners that they are superheroes, imbued with special powers of invincibility and hubris that often ends in needless bloodshed. 

Extra Credit:  the next time you're in your speeding projectile on the freeway, think about how many of the drivers around you are doing so drunk or high or stoned or sleepy or depressed or distracted or angry or upset or insane or otherwise in no condition to be driving a car... AND are carrying a loaded weapon.


The answer to this situation is actually very simple. Treat ownership of a gun the same way we do as a car, nothing more, nothing less. Make it as rote and bland as going to the DMV.  Require the potential gun owner to be more personally invested in their choice to own a weapon, to understand the responsibilities of owning a weapon, to accept the personal liabilities that come with owning a weapon, and to think hard about their choice.

If you're screaming "BUT BUT BUT... SECOND AMENDMENT!!!!" right now, just remember: this is about our personal survival and civility in the MODERN WORLD. We're not shooting each other with fucking muskets, you know. This is the year 2015, not 1875, and the deadly matte black death sticks that are currently all the rage are at least as dangerous than any speeding heavy projectile on the freeway. 

Cars have come a long way since the Cugnot Steamer (don't be lazy, look it up!), and we all benefit from two centuries worth of scientific and technical advances that make cars amazing tools for daily driving... yes, even the lowly and much-derided Mitsubishi Mirage kicks all kinds of ass over most cars built in the 80's. The driver's challenge is to keep up with all the things modern cars can do, but the responsibility of legally owning and driving one is even more important.

So it is with guns.

This form of boring SOP regulation won't end tragic gun deaths... nothing could, because human beings can be stupid and venal and will do stupid and venal things, especially when they're armed while drunk or high or stoned or sleepy or depressed or distracted or angry or upset or insane or otherwise in no condition to possess a loaded weapon. But car-like regulations WILL prevent people who have no business owning a weapon from being able to legally obtain one, and will also reduce the flippant ownership of one.  Could they get one illegally?  Of course they could, just like they could also own and drive a car illegally, but the odds are against them doing it for very long, and most law-abiding citizens will do anything they can to avoid being law-breakers.

As for the 'open-carry' fans, when we see that hog leg on your hip or strapped to your back, swinging around like a metal penis, at least we'll know that you did your due diligence, followed the rules and passed all the tests necessary to allow you to openly display that Steely Dan.  Good for you, nice job, enjoy your death stick.  But if John Law sees your metal penis and asks you to prove you have a license and insurance and you don't, well... you have your metal penis confiscated and maybe you even go to jail if it's happened more than once.

That's what happens when you break the law, man.

Just like a car.

This sea-change won't be easy, and there will be much screaming and teeth-gnashing and upheaval from The Armed Ones, but that's the price they must pay to keep their Beloveds with them at all times, like a deadly security blanket. That's the price we all must pay to survive and thrive in a modern civilized society.

"We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools." -- Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968)

Lead image, gracias de; Deep Purple 'Highway Star' video, muchismas gracias de; Fuck the NRA.