I just read "Is 'guns don't kill people people kill people' a good argument?" and it reminds me of another argument. I would like your opinion on whether or not it is a good argument.

Gun Control is like trying to reduce drunk driving by making it tougher for sober people to own cars.

I don't know whether this argument was used in the US Congress or anything similar (maybe it should be), but I am interested in finding out whether this argument is valid.

Are these two concepts comparable?

  • 6
    please explain the down vote so that I can learn how to better form a question on this site, thank you.
    – Malachi
    Commented May 1, 2014 at 14:41
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    Gun control is like trying to reduce drunk driving by requiring drivers to be tested and licensed. Oh, wait. Commented May 1, 2014 at 22:53
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    if that was what Gun control was all about I am sure that there would be less people complaining @RussellBorogove
    – Malachi
    Commented May 1, 2014 at 22:54
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    Nope. If the gun manufacturers see any indication that laws are being proposed which might cost them a single sale, they will fight them tooth and nail. Commented May 1, 2014 at 22:55

12 Answers 12


I'm going to have to disagree with Chris.

Any analogy is going to rely - to one extent or another - on the background knowledge of the audience it's being presented to.

In this particular analogy, it relies on the audience knowing what guns are, that there is already legislation in place controlling them, that some people violate this legislation, and that they are proposing more legislation to restrict access to them.

It also relies on the audience knowing what cars are, that there are laws in place specifying who can drive and what is acceptable, and that there are those that violate these laws.

Since Chris did a good job of defining what the argument here actually is I am going to borrow that from him.

Gun control IS TO reducing deaths from gun violence AS making it harder for sober people to own cars IS TO reducing deaths from drunk driving.

However as we can see from the assumed background knowledge of our audience, they know that there are laws in place affecting the use of both cars and guns. Which means that we do have an analogous person on the gun side for our sober person, and heres why.

When we say sober person, we really mean law abiding person since the law specifically states that you must be sober to operate a car. So a law abiding gun owner is, (i.e. someone who does not commit gun violence) in this analogy, equal to a law abiding (sober) car driver.

The next piece from Chris's response I want to tackle is this:

This still has the issue however of the "drunk" stipulation on the right. Again, there's no obvious analog on the left, and again there's an illegitimate implication (that all gun deaths are results of the same type of flagrant misuse of guns as drunk driving is a flagrant misuse of a car)."

The fallacy here again goes back to background knowledge and the fact that the audience knows that gun control is an issue because of the violence for which guns are used.

Which means that it is specifically the "flagrant misuse of guns" that is at issue here.

Since our person being discussed on both sides is a law abiding person, and the issue at hand is the breaking of laws ie: a person committing gun violence, or a person driving drunk, then accidents must of necessity be taken out of the equation since accidents happen with both cars and guns.

With accidents dismissed from the equation and our background knowledge established what our argument is really trying to say is that:

Restricting law abiding citizens from owning guns to prevent gun violence is like restricting law abiding citizens from owning cars to prevent drunk driving.

Which is an effective statement of absurdity, clearly laying out the anti-gun control point of view. But also a statement that could - with enough research - be verified as true or false. Which to me says that it is a highly effective analogy.

(Interesting note almost as many people die in car accidents as are killed with guns in the US each year, while gun accidents are in most years under 1000 deaths.)

DISCLAIMER: I neither endorse or denounce gun control, that is not what this question is about; it is about the effectiveness of a particular analogy and so my response digs into the reason I think the analogy is either good or bad. NOT wether gun control is good or bad. Also thanks Chris for giving me such a wonderful backdrop from which I could place my arguments against. +1.

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    Good development of the ideas (+1)! But there is a further development also: you have to consider carefully the law-abiding citizen premise given that people who normally abide laws also at times break them due to negligence, anger, etc.. Because otherwise you may as well say, "Restricting law abiding citizens from owning tens of thousands of nuclear weapons to prevent global annihilation is like restricting law abiding citizens from owning guns to prevent gun violence." Thus, the rhetorical move is flawed at best.
    – Rex Kerr
    Commented May 1, 2014 at 18:50
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    @Malachi - Nuclear weapons and rifles and cars all have significant differences. My point is that if you fully accept ryan's presentation, you also have to accept the nuclear-weapon version. So the analogy must be tempered by something to exclude the nuclear-weapon absurdity, and depending on what that something is, one may or may not still find the rifle-car part a good analogy.
    – Rex Kerr
    Commented May 1, 2014 at 18:57
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    @ryan - Those things may be true, but no steps in your argumentation rely upon distinctions between bombs and guns (this would have to be developed carefully or "guns are made to kill things, cars are not" would be equally relevant); whether something is constitutional does not appear in the argument (and if it did it would be from authority); properly stored nukes are not dangerous at all; and with close to a hundred thousand nuclear warheads at the height of the cold war, counting all sides, they could be a common asset for the wealthy.
    – Rex Kerr
    Commented May 1, 2014 at 19:43
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    I wouldn't say we're actually in disagreement. The original analogy is unbalanced, and I subtracted elements on the right to balance it, while you added elements on the left for the same impact. In either case you end up with an equation that better allows you to accurately judge the underlying claim. That still doesn't mean the original analogy is OK as it stands, however. Commented May 1, 2014 at 20:35
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    Nukes and guns are both arms used to deter home/country invasion. Cars are carriers and not intended to wound. All these have better, safer alternatives. Commented May 2, 2014 at 15:25

This is basically an analogy of the form

Gun control IS TO reducing deaths from gun violence AS making it harder for sober people to own cars IS TO reducing deaths from drunk driving.

So whether or not the analogy is good depends on how closely the parts match. As it stands, the biggest mismatch is the "sober" on the right side, which has no natural counterpart on the left. Thus this version of the analogy implies that everyone who would be affected by gun control would be an analog of a "sober" person --i.e. someone with no inclinations towards gun violence. This is probably not supportable, and it also has the issue that it also has questionable implications on the right: i.e. that "soberness" is a stable permanent category, instead of a transitory state of being.

If you clear out the word sober, the analogy is immediately much better. It now reads

Gun control: reducing gun deaths :: making it harder to own cars : drunk driving deaths

This still has the issue however of the "drunk" stipulation on the right. Again, there's no obvious analog on the left, and again there's an illegitimate implication (that all gun deaths are results of the same type of flagrant misuse of guns as drunk driving is a flagrant misuse of a car).

So we can clean the analogy again and yield

Gun control: reducing gun deaths :: making it harder to own cars : reducing car deaths

This is arguably a decent analogy, but it cuts both ways. On the one hand, we don't eliminate car ownership because people get in accidents. On the other hand, car ownership actually is controlled fairly extensively.

There are other potential disagreements with this analogy over whether or not cars and guns are actually comparable, given their contrasting usage and purposes, but this takes care of all the intrinsic structural weaknesses.

  • I agree with you, the sober part was thrown out there without a correlating descriptor on the gun control side, it should be taking Guns from Law abiding citizens to prevent Gun violence is like making it harder for non-alcoholics to buy a car or something to that effect. but then it doesn't give the same bite as the original statement.
    – Malachi
    Commented May 1, 2014 at 14:20
  • I think more or less they made an assumption that the audience would understand the conflict of Gun Control and make the correct connections. which would probably be the worst thing for this statement to begin with.
    – Malachi
    Commented May 1, 2014 at 14:22
  • car ownership isn't controlled, licensing for driving is controlled, but again that doesn't stop people from driving or buying cars just because they don't have a license and there aren't any new laws being made to make it harder to get a license for the purpose of keeping criminals from driving.
    – Malachi
    Commented May 1, 2014 at 14:43
  • @Malachi I don't know where you live, but in the US at least you have to have at least a title (a legal document) associated with a car for ownership of it. The owner of a car is tied to the VIN (vehicle identification number). If you plan on using the car at all, it is going to be for driving it--so then, yes, you will have to have driver's licensing and insurance. Otherwise, the only reason you would have a car were if it were an antique. Antique guns aren't controlled either. (Admittedly, you could have a non-antique show car or a non-antique show gun, but it makes sense to still regulate.) Commented May 1, 2014 at 18:11
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    if you plan on legally using a car at all you will have to have a license, registration, and insurance. That isn't saying who can and can't own a car, Gun control is about who can and can't own a gun, a person that has 5 DUI/DWI convictions can still own a car they just can't drive it, someone with one Violent Felony (or any Felony) can't (legally) own/posses a firearm they don't mention the word "use" in that statement, so what is controlled here? @called2voyage
    – Malachi
    Commented May 1, 2014 at 18:29

The implicit crux of the analogy is that Gun Control only affects law-abiding citizens. The idea is that law abiding people don't misuse guns, the same way that sober people don't drunk-drive. Meanwhile, criminal elements will continue to obtain and use guns, so if the problem with gun violence is from criminal elements, making it harder to have guns won't fix anything.

It seems like the analogy is easily confused, so while the point behind it might be valid (some will agree, some won't), the analogy itself is unlikely to convince anyone who disagrees with it.

  • Perhaps more accurate would be not "law-abiding citizens" but "properly obtained/registered/etc guns"; to clarify that making the proper process tougher doesn't change anything for purchases that avoid that process in the first place.
    – Peteris
    Commented May 1, 2014 at 20:08
  • "law abiding people don't misuse guns, the same way that sober people don't drunk-drive" Aren't those two vacuous statements? I mean, if I misuse a gun, I'm not law-abiding, by definition. And if I'm drunk driving, then I can't be sober.
    – nikie
    Commented May 2, 2014 at 18:50
  • @nikie: Nope. Truth by definition isn't in itself vacuous. A vacuous statement is basically such because the precondition is false. For example, "every sober drunk driver likes pizza". This statement is technically true -- all 0 sober drunk drivers in existence do, indeed, like pizza. But it's vacuous because we are talking about a group that by definition will never have any members, so any assertion about them is irrelevant. On the other hand, there are law-abiding people and sober people, which makes the truth of falsity of the statements you're asking about relevant.
    – cHao
    Commented May 3, 2014 at 4:04
  • @Peteris Good terminology suggestion, but incorrect assumption. Look closely at statistics using primary sources like the CDC, pubmed, ajph.org. Studies repeatedly show strong correlations between gun prevalence and violent crimes. Some show that only ~ 40% of violent gun crimes had purchased that gun illegally, often from people who had bought it legally. 10% had purchased it legally; ~ 40% got it from friends/family. Reducing the overall prevalence of guns in the population makes it more difficult to obtain a gun, impacting >40% of cases.
    – DoctorWhom
    Commented May 3, 2014 at 9:32
  • @DoctorWhom - I agree that reducing prevalence would help, but (as far as I see) Gun Control laws don't aim to significantly reduce prevalence but only to tighten the requirements to prevent the "wrong people" from obtaining a gun - and it won't change anything in the 80% cases where the "wrong people" obtained the gun from someone who would pass the new checks as well. Significantly reducing the number of guns in USA would require some very, very different legislation and actions than the gun control laws; not more of current gun control, but very different gun control.
    – Peteris
    Commented May 3, 2014 at 10:29

Gun Control is like trying to reduce drunk driving by making it tougher for sober people to own cars.

From a UK perspective, where we have tight gun control, "Gun Control" effectively means a system to prevent anyone demonstrating certain indicators which may make them more likely to misuse a gun. These indicators are usually held to be a violent and / or criminal past, any involvement with drugs and certain mental health problems where it is felt the risk of future violence is increased (such as depression).

Applying the same rationale to car ownership would mean preventing anyone where there is a high probability that someone may misuse their car. So, that might also include preventing the legal ownership of a car if you've had a history of drinking and / or substance abuse or a criminal record involving vehicles in some way.

So applying the same precondition could make it more difficult for some (sober) people to own cars. For example, someone who's used a car in a ram-raid (robbery) would not be allowed to own one in the future.

So the analogy is true?

Essentially yes, but it is more accurate to state the analogy as @Tracy Cramer did on her answer:

Restricting citizens with mental illness from owning guns to prevent gun violence is like restricting citizens with known drinking problems from owning cars to prevent drunk driving.

Which seems fairly logical...

What the argument is trying to imply is that gun control unfairly restricts responsible, law-abiding people from owning guns. Again, from a UK perspective this isn't really true.

What the argument alludes to is that any restrictions on people that are law-abiding etc. doesn't have any impact on the people that are not. For example, if you stopped sober people from owning cars, but still allowed drunk people to own them, you're unlikely to prevent many incidents of drunk driving.

The gun control argument is trying to highlight that preventing violent criminals from owning guns should be the priority, as they're the ones most likely to commit gun violence.

However, in both cases, whether you have a history of drinking or violence, this doesn't preclude the people who have no prior history from misusing their car / gun in the future. That's another debate entirely.

* To be clear, I'm not siding on one side or another of the debate, just the merits of the argument referred to by the OP **


I like the arguments made by both Chris and Ryan but would like to add another dimension to the argument that I think is missing. As is usually the case with complex issues, attempting to break it down to a simple soundbite does a disservice to the reality.

Gun control is multifaceted so the argument does depend on which piece of 'gun control' you are arguing. If you are talking about registration and waiting periods I think the statement generally holds, but if you are talking about past indicators I do not think it does - and "gun control" does include both types of legislation.

Using Ryan's statement above with a focus on the latter type of gun control yields:

Restricting citizens with mental illness from owning guns to prevent gun violence is like restricting citizens with known drinking problems from owning cars to prevent drunk driving.

People with known drinking problems can also be sober so I believe it is a relevant point. Note that you can lose your drivers license for public intoxication in some states, for boating and flying while intoxicated and other reasons. While that doesn't prevent people from owning cars, it would be illegal to drive them.

In a debate, clarifying the type of gun control can help make the argument stronger, imho.

That being said, and regarding your question 'are they comparable', I believe there are other drawbacks to the argument such that I personally would not use it in a debate with someone even with stipulations on the type of gun control being discussed. There are competency tests for driving a car and strong penalties for accidents while the standards for owning a gun and having an accident are in some cases less. To cite a widely known example of misusing a gun, Dick Cheney was not penalized (to my knowledge) for shooting Harry Whittington (perhaps because he was vice president). Would the outcome have been different if he had caused a crash with injury with his car? Usually when someone causes a crash they are ticketed, fined and their insurance can go up depending on the circumstances. I haven't seen that type of enforcement and penalties with gun ownership. So the comparison isn't as apples to apples as it might be inferred from the one line argument.

Please don't try to infer my stance on the issue based on this answer. :)

  • if you discharge a Gun in city limits you can be ticketed, so I would say that there are laws or reasons to ticket someone for accidentally discharging a firearm, whether or not it hurts someone. but still a good answer
    – Malachi
    Commented May 2, 2014 at 4:02
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    One correction: Dick Cheney wasn't shot, he was the shooter. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dick_Cheney#Hunting_incident Commented May 2, 2014 at 17:48
  • @FredLarson - thanks. I should have looked that up instead of relying on my (fading) memory. :)
    – CramerTV
    Commented May 6, 2014 at 18:20

The better argument would be to compare a ban on alcohol. This argument is appealing to a cost/benefit analysis, however cars have far, FAR more benefit than either guns or alcohol. It would require far more harm to be done by cars to justify removing them because of the amount of good they also do.

Guns are not without their advantages (most notably, hunting provides food and other resources, as well as arguably defense) and alcohol itself has very little real advantage beyond the recreational purposes (which guns also have). They are much more comparable than creating an unbalanced equation with cars which may have the same cost but provide far greater value.

That said, you may still be able to make the car analogy work by removing drunk driving from it entirely and simply looking at the total human life cost associated with driving in general. I suspect it still isn't as favorable as using alcohol as your alternative and focusing on drunk driving, but I couldn't tell you for certain without looking more in depth at statistics.


I suppose we could start simply by assuming that the statement is true on its face value. So, if "Gun Control" really is like "trying to reduce drunk driving by making it tougher for sober people to own cars", I have to wonder if there have ever been any serious efforts to reduce drunk driving by "making it tougher for sober people to own cars". Personally, I'm not aware of any; but I'd accept that such efforts could be identified somewhere and sometime.

What seems difficult is to identify any such efforts that had actually succeeded at making it "tougher for sober people to own cars".

If it's hard to find efforts "to make it tougher...", and if such efforts had only minor or obscure effects, then the argument is that gun control would have minor and obscure effects. In short, it's not something to be very concerned about. If it's true, apparently we can mostly ignore gun control.

But there are other problems that have been noted. E.g., ownership of a car is almost never restricted at all (except for limited areas such as ownership of titled property by minors, etc.) Even driving is only restricted when it's done on public roadways or areas of general public access. There are few, isolated circumstances when driving entirely on your own private property is restricted in any way.

Perhaps most importantly, gun ownership is a Constitutionally protected right in the U.S.A., while driving on public roadways is long established as a granted privilege. All kinds of laws could be passed that could affect car ownership by sober drivers. It's almost guaranteed that a couple appropriate laws could be described that could nearly eliminate drunk-driving. It's just as much guaranteed that the public wouldn't put up with such laws, so they'll never be passed or they'll quickly be challenged in court and invalidated.

Yet, it's theoretically possible to tackle drunk driving in that way and to pretty much eliminate it (assuming no significant public opposition.)

From that perspective, maybe the argument means that we could tackle problems related to gun ownership just as well as we could tackle drunk driving if we really wanted to. Both problems could be greatly reduced if the general public simply gave its support.

If I run across the argument, I'll probably respond from the "it's true" perspective. ("Really? You think we could reduce gun problems as easily as that? Then I'm with you in supporting gun control.")

  • I don't agree with you, but this is a good answer to the question.
    – Malachi
    Commented May 2, 2014 at 13:34
  • @Malachi You don't agree with... what? With the potential of starting from an assumption of a true statement? With ways of interpreting the statement? With the (sarcastic) closing paragraph? It's possible I should change some wording for clarity. Commented May 2, 2014 at 16:20
  • you took this statement and decided that it meant there was some idea of restriction that already occurs in purchasing vehicles, when the idea of the statement is that it would be ridiculous to implement restrictions on Sober people purchasing cars. this statement wasn't meant to say that we should restrict both and that it would eliminate gun violence and/or drunk driving, it was meant to say the opposite that restricting lawful ownership of an object doesn't stop unlawful use of the same object. That is where I don't agree with you.
    – Malachi
    Commented May 2, 2014 at 16:48
  • @Malachi Yes, it's understood what it was probably meant to say; but that's not necessarily what it actually says nor is there a reason that demands it be taken that way. Nor does the statement try to supply any evidence that car ownership controls actually would never have significant impact, and such evidence would likely be false anyway. Nor is it a valid analogy because it compares a restriction on a 'right' to one on a 'privilege'. Nor does it attempt to differentiate for 'sober' gun owners. For those reasons and more, seems easy to think it's simply 'not valid', as the question asks. Commented May 2, 2014 at 20:02

Gun Control is like trying to reduce drunk driving by making it tougher for sober people to own cars.

The basic idea is (thanks James!): gun control primarily affects law-abiding citizens, who don't misuse them, in the same way that non-drinking-people-car-ownership control primarily affects people who don't drunk-drive.

But the argument itself is flawed in a few ways:

  • "Sober" is an incorrect analogy to "law-abiding".

    Sobriety is a short-term measurable state - it says nothing of your previous or future drunkenness.

    A criminal record is something that's measurable (and presumably a lot more efficient than testing sobriety while buying a car), but there are plenty of criminals who don't have criminal records.

  • There's (often) nothing wrong with getting drunk, in itself. Legally speaking, that is.

    The presumable main reason for gun control is to stop those with illegal intent ('criminals') from using it against innocents.

    Getting drunk definitely doesn't imply illegal intent or an intent to drive drunk.

  • Drunk driving accidents are usually 'accidental', while most gun-related deaths or injuries are presumed intentional.

    Most drunk driving accidents presumably don't come about from some drunk person saying "I'm going to get in my car now and go kill someone".

  • Someone stealing a car just to drunk-drive isn't the same as someone stealing a gun to shoot someone.

    If the sober / law-abiding can own cars / guns, but the drunk / criminals can't, presumably there's a risk of the car / gun of a sober / law-abiding citizen getting stolen by a drunk / criminal.

    Legally speaking, stealing a car is worse than drunk-driving, but shooting someone / armed robbery is worse than stealing a gun.

    So, if you're planning to use a gun to shoot someone or commit armed robbery, starting off by stealing a gun doesn't add a whole lot to your crime.

    Conversely, stealing a car to drunk-drive is a lot worse than just drunk-driving. Admittedly one's judgement is impaired while drunk, but presumably few would go to the extent of stealing a car.

    I'm not talking about causing an accident while driving drunk, but again it goes back to intent - it's unlikely that such an accident was planned.

  • Cars are 'better' than guns.

    Intuitively speaking, I'd say the ratio of legal to illegal car use is a lot higher than the ratio of legal to illegal gun use. Keep in mind that legal car use includes any instance of driving from point A to point B.

    I'll replace illegal use with accidents or injuries, as these statistics are easier to come by, and that argument might be more correct.

    Car accidents in the US are ~6.5 million (bad reference, I know) for ~300 million people, which is roughly 22 accidents / 1000 people. There are roughly ~800 vehicles per 1000 people in the US. Let's make a rough estimate and say that only about 1/8 of those are in operation every second day. That's ~50 uses per day per 1000 people, which is 18250 uses per year per 1000 people. So the ratio of legal car usages to accidents are 18250:22 or 829:1.

    Comparing this to gun use:

    Let's say defensive gun uses are at ~2 million per year (in the US, I assume). Accidents? Let's say ~100 000 in the US (based on this). So that's 2 million:100 000, or 20:1.

    I think the difference between 829:1 and 20:1 is pretty conclusive.

    Note that I was taking into account any vehicle accidents, not just drunk driving - just drunk driving would make even more conclusive stats.

    I was ignoring gun uses for hunting and target shooting because I couldn't find stats for those, but I doubt that will be much more than the number of defensive gun uses, not to mention that car usage can typically be considered more necessary than gun usage for this purpose (i.e. recreationally).

  • Owning a gun can be detrimental to you, even if you don't use it for criminal purposes.

    Sure, owning a car (or really anything of value) can get you carjacked, but a more accurate analogy to someone taking your gun and shooting you (and/or using it as a threat to rob you) would be someone taking your car and then using it to run you over (and/or rob you) - possible, but not particularly likely.

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    I think it's safe to assume the argument refers to a history of sobriety, not your current state of drunkenness - otherwise it's like saying Gun Control is only intended to stop access to guns while they're committing a crime.
    – Michael
    Commented May 4, 2014 at 7:53
  • Also, your ratio for legal to illegal use of cars / guns is seriously flawed. Speeding, driving without a licence or insurance, use for smuggling or other crimes (including fleeing the police) are all common in most countries. Use of guns at practice ranges, target shooting, training and use by vets, law enforcement and the military are all common examples of daily, legal use. You mentioned hunting, but didn't include any stats. So what you've used is very one sided.
    – Michael
    Commented May 4, 2014 at 8:01
  • I'd also say that a drunk-driving "accident" is about as accidental as pointing a gun at someone, pulling the trigger and then claiming that shooting the person was an accident. The disregard for the safety of another human life occurred at the point where they made a conscious decision to drive drunk. That is no accident.
    – Michael
    Commented May 4, 2014 at 8:09
  • @Mikaveli "Otherwise it's like saying Gun Control is only intended to stop access to guns while they're committing a crime" - that's pretty much my point. I tend to assume people say what they mean (even when they mean something else), not make assumptions about what makes more sense.
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented May 4, 2014 at 12:16
  • @Mikaveli Those were just some stats I could quickly get my hands on, it wasn't meant to be an exact comparison. AFAIK law enforcement and the military aren't affected by gun control much. Regarding hunting - did you miss my last paragraph in that point? Beyond speeding and perhaps driving without a licence or insurance (neither of which typically hurt anyone in themselves), I doubt other vehicle crimes add significantly to the numbers. Double the car accidents and increase the legal gun use by a factor of 10 and cars still 'win'.
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented May 4, 2014 at 12:34

I'd like to address my take on the thorough answer that ryan posted.

While I agree that the two statements can be determined to make an analogy (and I agree with ryan's answer on the majority of points that he made, I personally don't believe it is a very effective one.

I'd like to emphasize that the general impact on society of restricting the use of cars would be larger than the impact of restricting guns.

Specifically excerpt from ryan's answer states:

Restricting law abiding citizens from owning guns to prevent gun violence is like restricting law abiding citizens from owning cars to prevent drunk driving. Which is an effective statement of absurdity, clearly laying out the anti-gun control point of view.

While I agree that the statement of restricting cars does indeed sound absurd, I understand that it sounds absurd only because cars are used very widely and frequently (most people who own cars use them daily). Cars are an effective utility we can use to improve our mobility and thus increase our efficiency and productiveness.

I do not believe (or I am not aware of, in which case please correct me) that there are many uses for a person to wield a gun on a daily basis.

Particularly the ones that come to mind are defensive gun use in case of break-ins or mugging for example and perhaps a sense of security a gun implies.

I don't believe that an average person is getting mugged/robbed at least once a month. Note that I'm making this assumption based on that I don't believe that the equation people-in-city divided by robberies-in-month will be equal to 1. In fact I'm pretty sure it'll be significantly smaller than 1. Which generally implies that for the average person the exceptional case when gun has a practical on-hands use is a lot less frequent than the practical on-hands use of a car on a daily basis.

As for the sense of security carrying a gun may imply, we could start a debate on whether people would feel a lot safer if everyone was carrying guns or nobody will carry guns. In fact I believe that people who carry guns for sense of security and are opposed to restrictions on guns simply do not trust the government enough to make their everyday life safe enough to not warrant carrying a gun making you feel safe. (And they could have a pretty valid point there.)

All in all, what I'm trying to convey here is that, while , yes I agree that these statements make an analogy, the fact that we use cars significantly more than we use guns, restriction on cars would have a much larger impact on the society than restriction of guns would have, thus the analogy maybe isn't as strong as it sounds at first glance.

As for making the analogies to nukes which appeared in the comments on ryan's answer, I'd have to again address the impact that restriction of nukes would have on society. As it is, I do not personally see any use of a nuke which would be benevolent or useful for an average person, thus the impact of restricting nukes for regular citizens has absolutely no impact, thus it is accepted without any opposition.

Although I'd imagine some mad scientist somewhere would object to this nuke daily usage ban wholeheartedly, but I doubt he has the best intentions in mind. ;)

  • Rich people don't use all of their Money in one month, should we remove what they aren't using? if you take away guns these crimes will increase. the fact that people know there are people that carry guns on a regular basis dissuades people from committing certain crimes. I don't know if this is true, but I heard that when guns were banned in Australia that armed robberies with swords and knives went up. even the thought of taking guns from people who have them for protection means that criminals who already have plenty of guns will be able to move about more freely.
    – Malachi
    Commented May 2, 2014 at 13:26
  • "if no one carries guns" make it unlawful for people to carry guns and most will comply meaning that there will be more guns in the hands of criminals (because they already have the guns) than in the hands of those who only want to protect themselves from criminals. trust the government to increase their military and local governments to increase their Police force, that is what they would need to do to ensure people's safety, in less populated areas this would be difficult. this argument travels the fine line of being on-topic.
    – Malachi
    Commented May 2, 2014 at 13:30
  • @Malachi I really don't see any correlation between the ratio of people being robbed to the usage of money by rich people. Please elaborate on that connection, as it stands it sounds almost like "Not all apples fall off of a tree in a month, should we ban apples?" which as you can see does not make sense. In fact it feels like you are nitpicking on my using actual feasible statistics while missing the point completely on what I tried to convey with it. So I apologize if I didn't make it clear enough for you to understand. Commented May 2, 2014 at 13:39
  • you aren't using actual statistics otherwise you would have linked to them. as far as Crime Rates in areas where there is Gun control versus an area where there is not, there have been plenty of studies that show there is more crime in areas where guns are restricted than where guns are not restricted. most "violence" due to guns are law abiding citizens protecting either themselves or other people from someone who is threatening the rest of the population.
    – Malachi
    Commented May 2, 2014 at 13:44
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    @Malachi I'm sorry, maybe you have the wrong stack exchange here. This is not the Skeptics SE. I'm not trying to prove a point. You have yet to address any points in my answer, you've only been nitpicking on my wording and searching for statistics which are not there. "How do you propose taking all the guns and making them disappear?" I didn't propose it, it's impossible (obviously), the idea behind that however can be discussed, but your "Show me the numbers!" attitude is unproductive in this philosophical discussion. Commented May 2, 2014 at 13:56

I preface this post with the fact that I am a law abiding gun owner. I grew up with guns but have always wondered why we don't have more sensible gun laws. I have always liked this analogy because it can easily be turned against the gun control opponent. No, we do not take cars away from sober drivers. But there are things that we do for vehicles that we do not do for guns.

  1. You have to take a written and practical test to be licensed to drive a car. Why do we not make sure that people take gun safety classes and a written exam on the gun laws of their state? You should have to prove that you are going to be safe with a gun.
  2. If you are caught doing illegal things with your car, you will have to retake the written and practical tests. If you are caught drunk and holding a gun, nothing happens. Or what about just doing stupid things with a gun like waving it around at family or friends in private? Nothing happens.
  3. You have to register your car, no matter what state you bought it in. No matter where you got it. It has to be reregistered every single time you move. It has to be reregistered every year and you have to pay for that. This is self explanatory. If I buy a gun in Indiana and move to Nebraska, the gun will remain registered at my former address in Indiana, and is not required to be registered in Nebraska. Most states do not require you to register previously purchased guns. Why is this? Also, if someone gifts me a gun, I may or may not have to register it. Plus they didn't have to do a background check to give it to me.
  4. If you are caught doing something illegal with your car, your car will be taken away and your license suspended or permenantly removed, including driving drunk. We should do the same thing with guns.
  5. We have universal background checks for our drivers licenses. If I get a speeding ticket in California, that ticket goes on my permanent record and even if I move to texas, that ticket still goes on my driving record. If I have a mental health record in Indiana, is that going to show up when I move to Connecticut? Can I move there and buy a gun? What about non federal crimes?
  6. Most states have a points system. If you are caught doing something illegal (speeding, reckless driving, etc), you get so many points. Once you get too many points, your license gets suspended. You can now no longer legally drive and if you get caught, you go to jail and your car gets taken. You can always take reeducation classes to get your points removed though. I think the same thing should apply with guns. Many times the small things that are unsafe are being reported, but they do not meet the threshold to ban the person from gun ownership. It is not until they do something majorly bad that they get their guns taken.
  7. One thing that does not meet this analogy but should still be said. In most states, If I am told that my mental health does not permit me to own a weapon, nobody comes and takes the guns that I already own, or my husbands guns that are also legally registered at my address. Its a half measure. You are saying that I should not be able to buy MORE guns. But you do nothing about the guns that I already own and have access to. What good does this do?

It's an analogy. Its not a very good argument depending what you are trying to argue...

Lets say its valid. So lets say it was impossible for a sober ( or drunk ) person to buy a car, basically the car market it gone, there are very few cars that can be acquired even though illegal means. Drunk driving deaths disappear. Same would happen for guns and gun death.

Great, problem solved! However the question is trying to be cunning because once you solve the problem, it seems silly to ban cars and trys to imply the same would be true of guns. But it actually makes a great argument, that yes!! banning cars and guns would very effectively get rid of deaths.

So basically the argument ends up "begging the question" of why one would allow either cars or guns. So if this argument is valid, it says yes we should ban both. However, are their any merits of owning cars or owning guns that counter act banning them altogether?


Vehicles and guns each cause a considerable number of deaths. Some of those deaths would be prevented by tightening regulations on who is allowed to own them, and therefore reducing the number of them in circulation.

In the case of vehicles there is a counter-argument against this restriction; it's a counter-argument that does not apply to guns: vehicles have a number of constructive uses; guns do not.

Guns exist to kill, hurt, and destroy their targets, whether those targets are human, animal, or inanimate objects. Guns do not advance our society. Restricting ownership of guns will not impede human progress.

Vehicles, are certainly not always used for especially constructive purposes, but they can be. Ambulances allow paramedics to save more lives; lorries can deliver construction materials for a new school being built; vans can distribute surplus food to shelters for the homeless.

Traffic is the number one cause of death for young people worldwide, so of course it would be good to see a reduction in car ownership and usage, and improvements in traffic safety. There seem to be more productive ways of going about that than restricting car ownership. Raising fuel prices, not so that they're prohibitively high, but enough to make people think about hopping on their bike, or a bus, instead of driving is a start. Improving urban planning so that people live closer to their places of work is another good idea. And of course, lowering speed limits. (The speed limit in my town was recently reduced from 30 to 20 miles per hour, and walking around town with the kids now feels a lot safer. The reduced noise from traffic has also been a welcome consequence.)

  • 1
    This might be a reasonable answer to "is gun (or car) control a good idea", but it doesn't seem to answer the "is this form of argumentation good" question, which is actually the main question.
    – Rex Kerr
    Commented May 2, 2014 at 1:09
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    Although tobyink's comment does not directly answer the OP's question, I feel it is a very valid point to make that the two subjects in question (gun and car) are extremely different in their intended purpose, design, and capabilities. These factors affect the ability to construct a strong analogy.
    – DoctorWhom
    Commented May 3, 2014 at 9:12
  • Intended purpose is highly subjective - most people roll out the statement that guns are only designed to kill. That's increasingly not true - more and more are designed for pure target use, in configurations intended solely for that purpose. I'd argue that there's less who would make the same statement about a bow in the modern age, yet their history is very similar. On the basis that cars and guns are machines controlled by people, where misuse can result in death, I'd say it's quite easy to form a strong analogy.
    – Michael
    Commented May 4, 2014 at 8:25
  • I think in my answer I was quite clear on guns not just being designed to kill, but also to destroy inanimate objects (such as targets). This is still a destructive (albeit not very) rather than constructive use.
    – tobyink
    Commented May 4, 2014 at 20:34

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