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Sunday, August 02, 1998

Of guns, automobiles, and summer vacations

By Dr. Paul Gallant & David B. Kopel
Special to the Review-Journal

      Packing the family in your automobile, to set out across the country for summer vacation? In America, your driver's license issued in one state is valid in all the other 49. But what if a license issued in your home state could only be used there? To travel from Pennsylvania to Florida, you'd need a separate license from each state that you'd pass through. Ridiculous, huh? But that's exactly the problem faced by vacationers and other travelers who want to protect their family. You see, many states refuse to accept the validity of handgun licenses issued by other states.
      Thus, the father who wants to protect his vacationing family from two-legged or four-legged predators is caught between a rock and a hard place. In many states, the penalties for even the simple possession of an "unlicensed" handgun -- regardless of the fact that it's never been used in the commission of a crime -- subject its possessor to prison terms which would make Rip Van Winkle cringe!
      While firearm-prohibitionists are always claiming that they want to "treat guns like cars," they don't really mean it. If the anti-gun lobbyists were true to their word, they would encourage every state to recognize every other state's gun licenses -- just like states currently treat driver's licenses.
      The real point of the "treat guns like cars" line from the gun banners is to promote gun registration; we register cars, so why not register guns? Of course the antis always forget that the only cars which have to be registered on those used on public streets. A car kept only on your own property (such as for driving around your farm) does not need to be registered.
      Inexplicably, the anti-gun groups who want to treat cars like guns never criticize the current schizoid treatment of firearm "violators," as compared to our treatment of traffic violators!
      Have you heard of an outcry for legislation banning the sale, manufacture, and possession of Jaguars, after some poor unfortunate soul was run down by a drunk driver, seated behind the wheel of one of these killing machines? Or, how about a call to ban Corvettes, after one of them was used by a pair of bank-robbers making good their getaway?
      Punishing the offender, instead of banning the objects used to facilitate the crime, is the logical thing to do. We crack down on drunk drivers, not on automobiles.
      So, then, why not use the same reasoning when dealing with firearm "violators?" Perhaps it's because what the firearm-prohibitionists really have their sights on isn't reducing criminal or negligent behavior! While Mothers Against Drunk Driving is opposed only to drunk driving, not to all kinds of driving, the anti-gun lobbies not only oppose gun crime, they oppose gun possession by law-abiding people. (Especially if those law-abiding people possess the gun for defense, rather than for sports.)
      Thus, the comparison between cars and guns is a phony pretext for more gun controls -- even though honestly treating guns like cars would result in removing many irrational gun controls.
      Because we don't treat guns like cars, America has a bunch of crazy laws -- laws that say the ability to defend oneself from the vicious criminals who prey upon society stops at the state line! While driver license reciprocity is a reality throughout all of the 50 states, honest citizens who choose to obey the law are prevented from exercising the most fundamental of all rights -- the right to protect one's family -- simply because of a geographical boundary. yet the right of self-defense may be most urgently needed when a person is in an unfamiliar area, caught very suddenly and very unexpectedly, right smack dab in the middle of one of a vacationland's unfamiliar "hot-spots!"
      "Don't leave home without it!" It's not just the catchy ending to a once-familiar credit card commercial. To many honest, responsible Americans, those five little words are the embodiment of a painful moral dilemma.
      The Supreme Court has already ruled that the right to interstate travel is one of the rights of American citizenship. Just as Congress in 1964 prevented bigoted state governments from discriminating against interstate travelers because of their race, Congress should now act to prevent discrimination against travelers who exercise their constitutional right to self-defense.
     Optometrist Paul Gallant is a research associate with the Independence Instituite, a free-market think tank in Golden, Colo. Attorney David B. Koppel is the research director of the Independence Institute and the award-winning author of several books on firearm issues. Contact the authors via The Second Amendment Foundation, 12500 N.E. Tenth Place, Bellevue, WA 98005.

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