Previous Page
Urban Velo
Next Page

Grave Consequences

By Graham Carnegie

Indulge me a hypothetical: A middle-aged man jumps into traffic at a busy intersection. He waves a gun at the nearest car as it screeches to a halt. He levels his weapon at the driver: “Don’t test me, asshole; I’ll blow your head off!” Then he takes off down the block.

Bystanders call 911. The police respond in force and arrest the man a few blocks away. They bring the perpetrator back to the intersection where witnesses identify him. Off to jail he goes. He’s charged with aggravated assault, exposing him to as many as 20 years of incarceration.

Grave consequences, to be sure, but it sounds about right, doesn’t it? Brandish a gun on a bustling city street and bully your way through traffic threatening to shoot someone—the consequences should be severe. If you’re as unfortunate as NFL receiver Plaxico Burress, shooting yourself with a legally owned firearm will land you in prison. That’s because guns are dangerous, very dangerous, and they present a lethal risk to anyone within their range; the law reflects that fact.

But let’s set aside the hypothetical and talk about something I actually saw: In the same setting, someone piloting $60,000 of German engineering jumps a moment before the light turns green to make a left turn ahead of an oncoming bus, blaring his horn to freeze pedestrian traffic, and cuts through a narrow gap between several startled pedestrians at dangerous speed.

No one (including me) called 911. If we had, would the police have come? Would they have arrested the driver for aggravated assault? Or would they have cited him for a motor vehicle violation, something he