For the last 9 months or so that I was drinking, I was likely never sober. Although I didn’t realize this at the time, I have learned a lot about my own body and the general physiology of alcohol’s affect on the body.
Because of the amount I was drinking and the fact that I drank for most of the hours I was awake, it is a safe assumption my blood alcohol level was always over the legal limit. Now, I did not drink early in the morning when I first woke up. But because I was staying up so late at night drinking, my body did not have time to process and metabolize the alcohol. And although I did not drink at the office, I started as soon as I got home. So anywhere I went in the evenings, I went buzzed–at the very least. The later in the evening it was, the more inebriated I would have been.
Which means there are a number of occasions that I drove drunk.
I never got caught. Maybe because I was extremely cautious. But most likely it was because I got lucky. I was never pulled over. I also got lucky in the sense that I never caused any property damage.
I bring this up to say this: I violated a number of laws and got away with it. Does that mean the laws are pointless? Does that mean we should go back to the days when there were fewer laws restricting driving under the influence?
I don’t think so.
I grew up riding in cars that had no seat belts. And if seat belts were in the car, they were never used. I often rode sitting on the floorboard, in the back of the station wagon, or sitting on someone’s lap. I think I even rode in my dad’s lap while he drove and let me turn the steering wheel. All of these things were okay.
Through my teenage years and into adulthood, a lot of laws have been added to promote safety while behind the wheel. Car manufacturers have to make their cars certain ways. Seat belts and airbags are standard. The legal limit to be considered intoxicated has been lowered (and may be lowered again in some states). Not wearing a seat belt can get you a ticket. We have speed limits, speed zones, and work area speed limits. There are signs alerting us to certain rules of the road all over the place. Failure to abide by the rules results in fines, lost licenses, and even potential jail time.
Yet with all of these laws on the books, there are still traffic accidents and fatalities every day. Does it mean the laws are pointless? Should we go back to the days when there were fewer laws?
I don’t think so.
We pass laws, in part, in order to make things safer. When distracted driving began causing numerous accidents, laws were passed to make cell phone usage while driving illegal. In Texas, it is illegal for a driver younger than 18 to have a powered up device in the car with them.
We have laws regulating food safety and sanitary conditions. Laws were passed to put warning labels on cigarettes and other deadly substances. Laws have been passed creating and increasing penalties for illicit drug usage.
And these laws, these attempts at safety, are important. Yet they are not foolproof. They have not completely eradicated the number of injuries, illnesses, or fatalities. So what’s the point of all these laws?
The point is that we are attempting to make things safer for the people in the world around us.
Have seat belt laws and lowering the legal limit and distracted driving laws made the roads safer? Yes.
Have they prevented all accidents from happening? No.
Should we remove the laws from the books or quit trying to make new laws that can help promote further safety? Of course not.
So why do allow that line of thinking to infect the way we talk about guns and gun safety? This past weekend, hundreds of thousands of people (led by young people) participated in marches all across the country asking for more gun safety.
And there are many ways we make this happen: enforcing waiting periods; closing gun show loopholes; studying the effects of gun violence; new technology that can help prevent a stolen gun from being fired; and so much more. None of these laws restricts or removes a right. Instead, they make life safer for everyone.
Should we get rid of all guns? Philosophically, I say yes. As a believer of someone who is called the Prince of Peace, I say yes. Pragmatically, I realize that may never happen.
But can we make everyone safer? Yes. Does it mean we are taking rights away? No. It means we are regulating them; maybe even regulating them well.
Will stricter gun laws end gun violence? No.
Will they reduce gun violence? Yes.
Will they reduce suicides? Most likely. (Side note: did you know that while female adolescents attempt suicide at much higher rates than their male counterparts, male adolescents successfully commit suicide at much higher rates? The main reason for this is that males are more likely to use guns, a more effective method at taking life.)
If one school shooting, one suicide, one accidental death is averted due to more regulations, will it be worth it? Yes.
Will we ever stop all the violence, all the killing? Maybe not.
But wouldn’t it be nice if we had fewer names turned into hashtags?