“I fully expect by tomorrow morning that President Obama will have rediscovered his left-wing roots and will give a press conference in which he will explain the problem is too many trucks,” [Newt] Gingrich said. “If only we had truck regulation then we wouldn’t have problems like Nice. Because it is trucks that are dangerous. I mean that is the exact analogue to Orlando and just tells you how nuts the left-wing in America is” [Evan Popp and Celisa Calacal, “Conservatives Call for ‘Truck Control’ in Wake of Terrorist Attack in Nice,” ThinkProgress, 2016.07.15].
The analogue between Nice and Orlando, Dallas, San Bernadino, Roseburg, Chattanooga, and Charleston is far from exact. We already have truck control. A truck operator must undergo training and obtain a commercial driver’s license. A truck owner must pay special taxes every year, affix a highly visible license plate, and submit the vehicle to inspections. We ban trucks from certain roads and neighborhoods, restrict the weight of their loads in springtime, limit idling and emissions, and ban jake braking in town. We strictly regulate the use of trucks to protect public safety, health, and infrastructure.
That strict regulation does not eliminate accidents or, far more rarely, deliberate use of trucks to harm others. Those harms are far outweighed by trucks’ daily utility as literal economic engines. Like airplanes, computers, and cold medicine, trucks can be repurposed to do great harm, but with sensible regulation, we minimize that harm while maintaining their immense practical benefit for hundreds of millions of people.
Guns in Dallas, Orlando, San Bernadino, Roseburg, Chattanooga, Charleston, and other sites of mass shootings were not repurposed from some benign use. Those shooters used guns exactly as they were designed, to shoot and kill. The Dallas shooter used his gun to revolt against and punish those he perceived as tyrannical agents of the state, exactly as the gun rights movement advocates.
Guns provide no countervailing daily utility. I won’t walk down Main Street today and see guns being used in any practical way by regular citizens to make their lives better. Guns don’t move couches, pave roads, shingle roofs, teach kids, relieve poverty, or cure the flu. Guns serve one purpose: to do deathly damage. Yet I can’t propose for guns even a fraction of the regulation that we impose on truck owners without being branded a lily-livered gun-grabbing liberal.
Trucks provide immense utility, yet we impose on them strict regulation. Guns provide almost no daily utility—Canada tightly restricts gun ownership, yet their economy and social institutions hum along nicely while they enjoy a far lower firearm homicide rate—yet many Americans adopt a strange absolutism against any gun restrictions.
We have truck control. We need comparable gun control.