Originally published in the Ann Arbor News, Bay City Times, Flint Journal, Grand Rapids Press, Jackson Citizen Patriot, Kalamazoo Gazette, Muskegon Chronicle, Saginaw News
June 15, 2014
General Motors CEO Mary Barra goes back to Washington DC this week to testify before Congress. She is to deliver a more detailed explanation of what went wrong with the faulty ignition switches that has been attributed to a dozen deaths in the United States. Of course there will be some grandstanding and some faux righteous indignation from members of Congress, but by and large the process works the way it should work: the American public has a vested interest in the reasonably safe operation of motor vehicles and over the past few decades our government has acted accordingly — passing laws, enforcing laws, and when necessary asking some deeper questions. The result? Driving is much, much safer than it was 50 years ago. Sure, a good deal of this was private market innovation. But let’s not kid ourselves, especially those of us from Michigan. We know how hard the industry fought seat belts and air bags. In the end, though, seat belts and air bags have become selling features.
Americans have a similar vested interest in gun safety and the prevention of gun violence. And yet, we cannot seem to get our crap together on this one — the American public or our government. Sure, other countries deal with high rates of weapons-related deaths and injuries, but those situations are called “civil wars.” Here, it’s just a macabrely acceptable status quo. “Well, that’s just America. We’re unique.” That’s true, we are unique. We grew up from a vast and open land; we have a fierce independence; we have a constitutional amendment about militias and bearing arms. I get all that. (Please, please don’t feel the need to explain.) But we as a Americans also have this amazing ability to get results from our sometimes frustrating system. It’s working for highway safety, why not gun safety?