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Race Cars

by Clyde H. Spencer
Copyright 1999

Imagine that our legislators were to decide that sports cars are responsible for an unacceptable number of accidents and deaths on our roads. While this simplistic view overlooks the role of the drivers of the cars, let’s focus on the issue as our wise legislators would undoubtedly deal with it. First, there is no single feature that uniquely distinguishes sports cars from other cars, except sometimes a name that has become synonymous with the term ‘sports car’ in the public’s mind – Corvette and Ferrari are a couple that might immediately come to mind.

So, in the name of protecting the public, the legislature crafts a bill to ban the manufacture and sale of ‘sports cars.’ Since they can’t agree on a generic definition that doesn’t also ban cars that most don’t think are really sports cars, they come up with an ingenious solution. They get a catalog of cars and go through it and look for cars that appear as though they might be ‘sports cars.’ They write down the name of the car and move on until they have gone through the whole catalog. They then write a bill that specifically names all the cars they thought looked dangerous, and legislatively define them as “Race Cars” that are unsuitable for transportation. People who currently own them will be allowed to keep them, so the state doesn’t have to spend money to reimburse the owners for “taking of property.” However, they restrict all owners to the use of their vehicles only on private property, with the property owner’s permission, and prohibit them from selling, loaning, or giving their so-called Race Cars to anyone. Owners are required to file special paper work with the Dept. of Justice (in violation of their 5th Amendment protection) notifying the state that they posses such a vehicle, and if they do not comply within a mandated time period, they are subject to a fine, confiscation of their vehicle without compensation, and a criminal record.

Not surprisingly, manufacturers get around the inane law by changing the name of their cars with new model features. This is seen by some as an attempt to circumvent the law. Others see it as predictable Capitalism at work.

After several court cases where it is demonstrated that the law was poorly crafted in several aspects and thereby unconstitutional, politicians, who want a cause to be remembered by to insure reelection, vow to “close the loopholes” in the existing law. This time, the safety zealots craft a generic law that additionally defines a ‘Race Car’ as any automobile with a 250 HP engine or larger, a removable top, and any one of several additional features as follows: 1) 4-speed manual transmission; 2) alloy wheels; 3) pin-striping; or 4) a vinyl ‘bra’ protecting the front of the car.

Now, besides having violated the spirit of the original law by potentially banning some cars that were purposely excluded the first time, what the law really accomplishes is to become a defacto ban on the cosmetic features and minor functional features that are not essential to the operation or performance of the car. One need only go to the inconvenience and slight expense of removing the offending item(s) and one can avoid the onus of owning a ‘Race Car’ and all the attendant legal restrictions.

Now, if the above seems a little silly, consider this: This is exactly what the California legislature has done recently with respect to so-called Assault Weapons. This is the law that governor Davis signed with so much fanfare as protecting the public and fulfilling his campaign promise. It is clear that we don’t send our best and brightest to Sacramento – just the politically ambitious!

Originally published in the Union Democrat, Sonora, California, January 2000 as a Letter to the Editor.

Printer Version

Gun control? It's the best thing you can do for crooks and gangsters. I want you to have nothing. If I'm a bad guy, I'm always gonna have a gun. Safety locks? You will pull the trigger with a lock on, and I'll pull the trigger. We'll see who wins. — Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, whose testimony convicted John Gotti.

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