YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Venice boardwalk rampage: A reader's call for car control

August 05, 2013|By Paul Thornton
  • A makeshift memorial along the Venice boardwalk is seen Sunday near where a hit-and-run on Saturday struck several people, killing one woman.
A makeshift memorial along the Venice boardwalk is seen Sunday near where… (Tami Abdollah / Associated…)

Substitute "gas" and "engine" for "guns" and "bullets," and you have a impassioned plea for action against the weapons of mass destruction that lead to incidents such as Saturday's hit-and-run assault at the Venice boardwalk: cars.

That's basically was reader Skip Fraser of Costa Mesa did in a letter to the editor, presumably to mock those who call for increased gun control in the wake of mass shootings:

"Once again a disturbed individual has taken out his frustrations on a large group of innocents, resulting in death for one and a rash of injuries for others. Yes, it could've been much worse.

"But the real issue here is the fact that any idiot can purchase a fully automatic weapon and drive it off the lot on the same day with a full tank of fuel and without a background check. Was he insured? Is his license valid?

"Enough with this senseless violence! This latest tragedy and the mass killings and casualties over the past year must prompt lawmakers to tighten regulations on automatic weapons.

"These large-capacity fuel tanks and high-performance engines can cause massive carnage. One can only imagine the death toll caused by an assaulter utilizing all 25 gallons of gas on an unbridled foray through the streets.

"No one is safe until our elected representatives act to rein in this senselessless. Two- and four-barrel carburetors, high-performance automatic V-8 engines and bottomless fuel tanks are too dangerous. The framers of the Constitution did not have these weapons in mind when they penned the Commerce Clause."

Fraser has a point -- about how dangerous cars can be.

Before getting on a soapbox about the inherent risk of driving, I'd like to point out that I do believe there are fundamental differences between guns and cars. Firearms, when used properly, kill people; it's one of their primary purposes, and the laws that regulate them ought to reflect that. In contrast, automobiles serve the crucial role of transporting people to their jobs, homes and more. That people are killed by them is a side effect, albeit a very costly and tragic one.

How costly? In 2009, there were nearly 34,000 traffic fatalities in the U.S. And while some of those deaths were surely intentional, most of us call car collisions "accidents" for a reason: It is really, really easy to cause serious harm and death to others when at the controls of an agile, engine-powered machine that doesn't take much physical effort to manipulate.

It takes only a few pounds of pressure to pull a trigger and unleash enough energy to kill someone quickly. Likewise, accelerating your own 2-ton pile of steel and glass to outrageously high speeds requires only a gentle push of a driver's toe. Pedestrians are put at mortal risk by motorists who would rather not wait for them to cross a street, and cyclists who momentarily interrupt their driver's right to exceed the speed limit also face danger. Neither situation poses much risk at all to the driver.

Before dismissing those who compare cars and guns, drivers would do well to understand that it  takes only a momentary lapse in attention or judgment -- or, as in Venice this weekend, an apparent inability to control one's agitation -- to cause a tragedy.

And we have gun zealots to thank for reminding us of that.


Is the GOP self-destructing?

Pope Francis' woman problem

Reza Aslan's 'new' take on Jesus

Los Angeles Times Articles