Brinkley: Guns, pencils and cars
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Brinkley: Guns, pencils and cars

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Posted: Tuesday, June 4, 2013 12:16 pm

While driving on Ray Road recently I saw a bumper sticker reading: “People who think guns kill people must think that pencils misspell words.”

The logic in that bumper sticker is wrong-headed. The real point here is that misspelled words don’t kill people, but guns do. Pencils are tools for writing; guns are tools for killing. The consequence of the tool’s use is what matters, not that it is a tool.
Unfortunately, strident gun rights advocates change the argument once this point of consequences (i.e. human loss of life) is made. They point out that cars kill more Americans than guns do, and then imply hypocrisy because advocates of common-sense gun laws do not advocate banning cars rather than assault rifles.

Again the logic is misdirected. Cars are tools for transportation with a proven potential to be dangerously used, while guns, conversely, are tools for shooting things with a proven potential to be safely used.

Because cars can be fatally dangerous, their use is heavily regulated, with mandatory background checks to see if a driver has too many violations, training, licensing, registration, insurance, speed limits, traffic regulations, safety features, etc. The fact that there are many traffic deaths led us as a society to this common sense policy-based public safety approach. That approach has been very successful in saving lives, and we seek better ways all the time to regulate cars. Traffic deaths in our country are projected to fall below the level of gun deaths in 2015.
But despite developed world leading levels of gun violence, we can’t seem to take this same common sense approach to regulate guns.
Now let’s revisit these two favored ideas of the gun lobby again — “guns are only tools” and “other tools kill a lot of people too.”
We accept the almost complete lack of laws controlling the use of pencils, but we also accept the many regulations governing our use of cars. Why? They are both inanimate objects, but cars are far more dangerous than pencils. So we reasonably make the distinction and apply different safety policies.
Pencil-related deaths are not a problem in our country, yet gun-related and traffic-related deaths are on the same scale. So why would we take a public safety policy approach to guns more like that for pencils than that for cars? Please no responses of “SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED!” as it again would again be wrong-headed (no one is gun-grabbing!).
What would we all have thought if the parents of the 5-year-old Kentucky boy, who recently shot his sister with a child-marketed gun, let him drive his 2-year-old sister around in car? On the other hand, none of us would have thought twice if we heard his parents had let him use a pencil around his baby sister. Sadly though, his parents, and too many of our political leaders, consider a gun more like a pencil than a car.

We do not think pencils misspell words … we think they cannot be used to accidentally kill 2-year-old sisters.

• Ahwatukee resident Bryan L. Brinkley is secretary of Arizona People Acting for a Safer Society (AZ PASS). For more information, visit

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