Back in the year 1900, there were only 4,192 passenger cars manufactured in the United States. Those 4,192 turn-of-the-century car enthusiasts could freely putter along their dirt roads with little concern about speed limits, driver training or tests, licensing, stop lights, traffic cops, seat belts, or fatal accidents. I’m sure some still managed to get into bouts of road-rage fueled fisticuffs, or run over the occasional slow-reacting pedestrian, but these incidents, while vexing, were not unmanageable.
Fast-forward to 2022 and there are now over 284 million motor vehicles operating on the roads of the United States. Today we absolutely do have to worry about things like speed limits, driver training and tests, licensing, stop lights, traffic cops, seat belts, and fatal accidents. Not only are there far more cars today, they are far more densely packed into confined spaces, they are dramatically heavier, and are far faster. To fail to regulate car ownership and to strictly circumscribe their use in today’s world would not be merely vexing, it would be insanely dystopian.
In this, I think any even the most passionate car enthusiast would agree.
But what if one of the drafters of our Constitution was also the proud owner of a 1886 Benz Patent Motorcar? He might have honestly believed that motorcar ownership is a right that should never be curtailed by the government in any way. And further, he might have argued that the personal mobility offered by the motorcar was essential to civil resistance against an oppressive government. Therefore, what harm could come from including a Motorcar-Rights Amendment to ensure that some future tyrannical government can not seek to oppress us by curtailing our ability to move about and associate freely?
What would likely have happened if we did have such a “Motorcar-Rights Amendment” in our Constitution?
Likely we would be in much the same situation we are in with guns.
Like gun owners, car enthusiasts would have tenaciously invoked their Constitutional Right to block any regulation that in any way restricted their use of cars. No seat belts, no speed limits, no competence tests, no police enforcement–no slippery-slope regulations of any kind. Certainly the American Automobile Association, funded by the car industry, would unfailingly argue in front of the Supreme Court that even the most modest car control regulation or liability exposure is unconstitutional. Regardless of the number of horrific high speed accidents, heedless of death and injury counts, the Supreme Court would steadfastly insist that we adhere to the original intent of the Constitution. “Responsible” car owners would buy ever bigger and more dangerous vehicles in order to defend their rights, to defend our liberty, and to defend themselves from all those “other” reckless car drivers.
Over the decades, as cars got bigger, faster, and more numerous, our dogged protection of that right would have gradually transformed our county into a vast and deadly demolition derby with 284 million rhinoceros-sized death-machines all trying to outdo each other by buying even more deadly elephant-sized death machines.
And our only response would be to continue to send our thoughts and prayers to all the victims of that insane car-nage even as we were quick to reaffirm our commitment to protecting “responsible car ownership” and advocating for inconsequentially modest reforms.
And guns have incomparably less value to society than do cars.
What a more sane and rational Supreme Court would and should do about guns is to drastically reevaluate or even better abandon this primeval Constitutional right in recognition of the real world we live in today. But regardless of that, any ethical and responsible individual would and should voluntarily elect not to own guns of any kind for any reason and refuse to defend or support any private gun ownership whatsoever for any reason.