Gun Laws In 35 States Have Nearly Doubled Road Rage Shootings Across the Country

The next time another driver tailgates you or acts erratically in traffic, you may want to contain your anger because they could have a gun. It’s unfortunate to have to worry about, but considering it’s currently legal in 35 states for drivers to carry a loaded handgun without a permit, it’s a stark reality. This reality is fortified by the number of road rage shootings, which doubled between 2018 to 2021.   

A hand gun in  the glove compartment of a car.
A handgun in the glove compartment of a car. | Martin Aspley – PA Images via Getty Images

Research shows that having a loaded gun in the car is linked to aggressive driving

It may be hard to believe that permitless carry laws don’t include vehicles. But in many states, they grant people the right to carry concealed weapons pretty much wherever they please, notes Jerry. The auto insurance shopping site also reported that in some of the 35 states where it’s legal to carry a loaded gun in your car, the gun must be visible to anyone walking up to the vehicle.

That’s a little disconcerting. Although you might think it would aid in keeping those with loaded weapons a little more calm on the road, it does not. Researchers found that merely keeping a gun in the car can make people drive more aggressively, make obscene gestures, or both. “And the presence of a gun can quickly turn an ugly incident into a deadly one,” Jerry noted.

522 people were shot in road rage incidents in 2021

Road rage shooting data from 2016 to 2021
Road rage shooting data from 2016 to 2021. | Everytown for Gun Safety, Jerry

The permitless carry laws, mixed with the psychological aggression that drivers with guns have, have led to an increasing number of fatalities in the last few years. According to data from Everytown for Gun Safety, 522 people were shot in road rage incidents in 2021 alone. That’s nearly double the amount in 2018, which totaled to 247.

The data also shows that among the 35 states, Texas, California, and Florida had the highest number of fatal shootings in the past five years. Regarding the actual body count, Texas recorded 87 shootings, while Florida came in at a close second with 32, followed by California with 31.

Fatalities from road rage shootings data.
Data showing fatalities from road rage shootings. | Everytown for Gun Safety, Jerry

Jerry also noted that the latter two states do not have permitless carry laws, while Texas does. Although California and Florida are more populous than other states, hence the higher numbers.

New Mexico is the deadliest state with the most road rage shootings per capita, followed by Nevada and Mississippi. Of the 10 states reported, nine of them have permitless carry laws. The data also showed that only two states – North Dakota and Wyoming – did not record any road rage shootings in the past five years.

Road rage incidents are up, but guns aren’t the only factor

Fatalities from road rage shootings per 100,000 people.
Fatalities from road rage shootings per 100,000 people. | Everytown for Gun Safety

While the data clearly shows that road rage incidents have increased in the past five years, loaded guns aren’t the only factor responsible for them. Some research has shown that stress levels have increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as have aggressive driving accidents. Gun sales have soared as well.

So, the next time you get aggravated at the tailgating car behind you and think about making an obscene gesture, you may want to think twice. There’s a possibility that the driver may be carrying a loaded gun.

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