Gov. Jerry Brown has signed several gun-control bills into law (see story on Page A1), but he has signed no really tough vehicle-control laws. Yet, vehicles were responsible for far more deaths in the United States and in California last year than guns were.
In 2012, 32,885 people reportedly were killed in vehicle accidents, a rate of 10.38 fatalities per 100,000 population. Another 2.239 million were injured. As for gun deaths, the total was 11,493 — a rate of 3.5 per 100,000 population.
More than half of the vehicle fatalities were the fault of drunken drivers, yet our treatment of drunken drivers is mild compared to the harm they do.
If we were really serious about how to control vehicle deaths, we would pass laws that required that no car could go more than 35 miles an hour, and that no vehicle could hold more than five gallons of fuel. We would require that each vehicle be equipped with a Breathalyzer that would keep the car from starting if it detected any alcohol in the car once the door was closed. If those things were done, it would considerably reduce a motor vehicle’s effectiveness as a deadly weapon.
Then, of course, there is the driver. In some countries, the first drunken-driving violation results in lifetime forfeiture of the vehicle, lifetime forfeiture of the driving license and a year in jail. If a death occurs, that year in jail extends to whatever the maximum imprisonment happens to be in that country.
In the United States, while we do regulate motor vehicles and their use to some extent, there is no constitutional right to own a vehicle or to drive one.
There is a constitutional right to own firearms. Yet, if all firearms were eliminated, which would be impossible, people would still die. More people die from falls, for example, than from firearm use. People also use knives to kill people, and also use other weapons.
Yes, if all guns were gone, people would still die in California — in vehicle accidents. That is, of course, unless the Legislature really got down to business and got rid of motor vehicles, too.