This is an embarressing story, but it needs to be told. I was recently stopped at a red light, first in line. I did something I shouldn't have done. I put my hand on my phone, flipped it upright, and looked at a text that had just come in. When I lifted my eyes from reading the phone I noticed that the light had turned green. In that very moment a large pick-up truck raced through its red light. I had enough time to hit the brakes and avoid being severely side-swiped. But had I pressed on my gas pedal when the light initially turned green, as most of us usually do, it is almost certain that the truck would have hit my car, and me.
So there it is. Texting while driving may have saved my life. Let that sink in for a second.
One of the mantras in the gun-rights movement is that the presence of a gun in the home, or on one's person, offers more protection from violence or injury. Or, more simply put: if you have a gun, you'll be more safe. Never mind that this assertion is statistically false and doesn't hold up to peer-reviewed and scientific scrutiny. In fact, gun ownership actually doubles the risk of homicide and triples the risk of suicide. These numbers become even more harrowing when we limit their application to woman (domestic violence) and children (accidental and negligent shootings).
And we also know that there are, in fact, rare cases in which citizens use a firearm for protection. In other words, it is possible—even if unlikely—that owning a gun could actually save your life.
So here's the the thing. While in theory I could advocate for texting while driving because it could potentially save a life—as it may have mine—it would be absurd to make such a claim. Why? There are roughly 1.6 million auto crashes, 500,000 injuries, and roughly 6,000 deaths due to cell phone usage in cars per year. When we use our phones in the car, we are 23 times more likely to be in an accident because of that usage. The fact that texting while driving may have saved a life is essentially meaningless against these numbers.
A gun in the home, some studies show, increases the chance of it being used for homicde, suicide, accidental shootings, or attempted suicide by a rate of 22 to 1. For every time a gun is used in self-defense in the home, there are 7 assaults or murders, 11 suicide attempts, and 4 accidents involving guns in or around a home. To suggest, against those numbers that unfettered access to a gun is an objectively good idea, with practically no serious and common-sense restrictions, is equally challenging.
The Torah states: “When you build a new house, you shall make a guard rail for your roof, so that you shall not cause blood [to be spilled] in your house, that the one who falls should fall from it [the roof]" (Deuteronomy 22:8)
The Talmud reflects on this verse: “Rabbi Nathan teaches: From where is it derived that one should not breed a bad dog in his house, or keep an impaired ladder in her house? From the text [Deuteronomy 22:8]: "You shall not cause blood in your house." (Babylonian Talmud, Bava Kama 46a)
It's certainly true that we can't avoid all danger. We can't avert all accidents. We can't control all life and death. But religious tradition asks us to pursue every opportunity to avoid unnecessary loss of life.
So, don't text and drive. Put your phone down. I certainly need to put down mine.
And, please, elected officials: vote to enact the common-sense gun measures, like universal background checks, that this country so desperately needs.