Road rage is a problem in Paris.
You know what drivers do there?
They yell at each other. They lean on their horns. There are fistfights.
Nobody gets killed, but it’s not pleasant.
Road rage is a problem in London, too.
People have been stabbed, punched, kicked and bitten. People have been dragged from their cars.
Almost nobody gets shot. That’s pretty rare. But last year the United Kingdom counted 2,300 road rage crimes.
Road rage is problem in Rome, too.
It was just last November that a woman in Rome, furious that her car had been run off the road by another car, grabbed a gun, walked up to a couple of teenagers and said, “Y’all better call 911 because somebody is going to die.”
No, wait. That wasn’t Rome, Italy.
That was Rome, Tennessee, which explains the “y’all.”
In fact, road rage is a problem in Italy, as it is in many countries, but almost never does anybody in Italy or one of those other countries pull a gun, let alone shoot somebody.
That would be a very American thing.
Emboldened to be belligerent
One of the dumbest things we hear from the pro-gun absolutists is that the 393 million guns in civilian hands in the United States make for a more “polite” society. Because, you know, when everybody is armed nobody dares to be rude.
We think the opposite is likely true, that all our guns make us more belligerent. They embolden us to be jerks. Our guns make for busy morgues, not for a more polite society.
The evidence is all around us. The United States is the gun murder capital of the world. But today let’s specifically consider the evidence from road rage incidents because that’s on our minds right now. It’s the horrific news of the day.
A little boy, 21-month-old Kayden Swann, is lying in critical condition in a Chicago hospital, hovering between life and death, because somebody on Lake Shore Drive on Tuesday put a bullet in his head during a classic case of American-style road rage.
Apparently, somebody got angry at somebody else when one car did not allow another into a lane on Lake Shore Drive south of Soldier Field. Both cars continued north, the police say, and there was shooting and little Kayden, sitting in the back of one car, was shot in the temple.
Here’s a safe bet: If our nation were not so damned gun-happy, little Kayden would be home right now watching “Sesame Street.” The drivers of the two cars on Lake Shore Drive still might have had a confrontation on Tuesday, but maybe not. Two Harvard University studies, one based on 2002 data from Arizona and the second based on 2004 data nationwide, have found that people who are armed are more likely to engage in road rage.
And even if the drivers had still had it out, nobody would have been shot because nobody would have had a gun.
Guns jack up deaths
All around the world, road rage kills in one common way. People step on the gas and drive like angry fools and crash and die. That happens everywhere. In the United States, according to data compiled by the online driver’s education company SafeMotorist.com, about 66% of all traffic fatalities can be linked to aggressive driving.
But only in the United States — where there are almost 1 1⁄2 times more guns than there are cars, trucks, buses and motorcycles — does the presence of guns jack up the number of deaths from road rage. SafeMotorist.com estimates that about 37% of the fatalities linked to aggressive driving are caused by a firearm.
About 30 people are murdered each year in road rage confrontations — mostly with guns — auto insurance industry groups report. And the total number of cases involving guns may be creeping up. In 2016, the most recent year for which we could find data, the number was 620.
All of this makes a mockery of the gun lobby’s mantra that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” The truth is that people with guns kill people, with appalling irresponsibility and in shameful numbers. We are a stupid country that way.
Any fool can buy a gun
The ultimate irony of how road rage plays out in our country is that the cars and drivers are regulated but the guns are not.
Every legal vehicle on the road in the United States has an identification number, registered with the vehicle’s owner, that can be traced by the police. Every legal vehicle has insurance coverage. Every legal driver has to have a license — and has to pass a test to get that license.
Any old fool can’t just drive a car.
But guns and gun owners are not registered or licensed in the same way. Guns are bought and sold at garage sales, from anonymous seller to anonymous buyer. Gun owners don’t have to pass a test. In many states, they don’t even need a permit.
Any fool can buy a gun.
When we started writing this editorial about three hours ago, Kayden Swann was alive and fighting to stay that way. His doctors said he was making “progress.” Now, before posting this editorial, we’ll have to make a call to see if he’s still alive.
How we pray he is.
Americans kill each other with guns so often and fast. It’s hard to keep up.
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