Anger Management 2.0

Today, with the public becoming aware that more than 15 million Americans are legally carrying firearms, you would think that people would be less inclined to engage in road rage. But even more disturbing, recent studies have shown that cases of road rage involving armed participants have actually risen.

Note that very seldom are shots actually fired — those stories make the news. Most, however, involve charges of assault, felony assault with a deadly weapon, etc. We had just such a case last month here in Florida.

The Florida Highway Patrol responded to a “report of road rage involving a firearm.” The investigation found that the suspect, identified as 62-year-old Edward Robert Shinn, had been tailgating the victim while traveling westbound on Interstate 10.

The victim reported that he initially changed lanes and even tried to get Shinn to back off by tapping his brakes lightly. Neither tactic worked, and, eventually, Mr. Shinn pulled up next to him and “produced a firearm and aggressively pointed it at the victim.” Shinn was ultimately arrested, charged with felony aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and released on $2500 cash bond.

My attorney friends don’t give him much chance of beating this one. More than likely his own lawyer will suggest that he take whatever plea deal the prosecution offers — juries don’t often look kindly on angry people who threaten others with guns.

The Gun Violence Archive inventories and catalogs episodes of gun-related violence in the United States based on news and police reports and other sources. They conducted a study of such incidents over the last three full years (2014-2016).

It found that cases of road rage involving a firearm (where someone brandished a gun or fired one at a driver or passenger) more than doubled: from 247 in 2014 to 620 in 2016. The following states reported the highest number of cases:

Florida was No. 1, with 147 cases; followed by Texas, with 126; California, 82; Tennessee, 68; and Pennsylvania, 62.

Note that these numbers do not include many altercations that go unreported — or those instances where a report was made but the offending driver could not be identified (lack of license plate number, etc). Regardless of where you live, you can bet your state has its share of such cases.

I’ve trained over 5000 students in the responsibilities of carrying a firearm. And I spend a significant amount of time in class discussing road rage, with the message that it is to be avoided at all costs.

No matter how provocatively, or even belligerently, anyone else is driving, do not engage. Change lanes or slow down, but no matter what, avoid responding — or worse, retaliating. If his or her behavior is that bad, you should call 911 and give a description of the vehicle and the driver’s actions. Then stay out of it. Escalating a situation is always problematic in court, where a prosecutor will (rightly) question why you didn’t simply seek to avoid the offending driver.

Lastly, don’t YOU be the one tailgating, changing lanes abruptly or otherwise acting like you’re “looking for a fight” — because you will eventually find one. I always cringe when I see angry internet posters ranting about how other people drive (too fast, too slow, whatever). Who cares? If you can’t control your emotions even when driving unarmed, then driving while carrying a gun is asking for serious trouble.

Be smart. Be safe. Chill.