I own a car. I purchased it privately, via Craigslist. But after I bought it, I had to let the State of Oregon know I had done so. The state knows I own this car, it knows where I keep the car, and it will know should I decide to sell it. It also knows the car has passed DEQ standards and is properly licensed; should I fail to re-test or get new tags, the state will know and will eventually punish me if I fail to comply.
I have insurance on my car; I spend about $1,100 a year right now on basic insurance even though I am pretty damn sure I’ll never be the cause of an accident. It would cost less, but two years ago, I got nailed speeding. I paid a fine for breaking the law, and I’m being held accountable by the insurance company for another year. If I prove myself a reliable, law-abiding driver through 2013, my rates will go down again.
If I drive without insurance and get caught, the law will hammer me.
If I drive while drunk and get caught, the law will hammer me.
If I do something stupid, reckless, or careless while driving and cause an accident or break a law, the law and my insurance company will both hammer me.
If I act out of rage in my car and cause an accident or break a law, not only will the law and my insurance company hammer me, I’ll probably get my ass sued in civil court.
When I was 15, my folks taught me to drive (mostly my mom). We spent quite a few hours in the parking lot of my dad’s college, across the street from our house in Billings. Most Americans learn to drive in empty parking lots, and I also spent part of a summer taking Driver’s Ed. I watched “Blood on the Highway” or some variant thereof. And I took my first driving test at the age of 16, passing and getting my license. Since then, I’ve been tested by the Air Force and the State of Oregon. Experienced, qualified agents of the government have sat in the car with me and verified I had the skills and, as far as they could tell, the capacity to be a licensed driver.
I had a small fender bender while in high school with my mom’s car; that earned me a few sessions of remedial driver education school. When I worked for a government agency some years back, I attended a driving safety class; it was a chance to get out of work for an afternoon, but I still practice a number of the skills I learned that day. I continue to try and be a better driver, especially as I know that my patience for the poor driving of my fellow citizens is something for which I have less and less capacity. Also, being a Portland-area driver, I have to be aware of the presence of bicyclists; the failure of other drivers to be aware of me on my bicycle has left me injured, hospitalized and traumatized. I have to work hard to ensure I do cause the same harm with my car.
I have to notify the state if I move so that my driver’s license, and state records, can be updated. If I to another state, I have to jump through all their hoops, regardless of the fact that the State of Oregon is satisfied with my worthiness to be a licensed driver and registered car owner.
I spend way too much money to keep my car in good shape, to ensure that when I drive, I’m not a danger to myself or anyone else. I say “too much money” but it’s money well-spent — if I’m going to own and drive a car safely and responsibly.
In short, my ability to own, drive and maintain an automobile costs me money, time and effort. It entails compliance with many laws that are strictly enforced and severely punished when violated. The public and private sector work together to do their best to ensure I am qualified, safe, legal and able to meet any liabilities should I fail to use my car as intended at all times.
And do I have to spell out how much more onerous are these responsibilities than what is required to own a gun?