A driver in the passing lane speeds up to get around you, then pulls in front of your vehicle and immediately slows down. That’s aggravating.
What can you do?
Traffic researchers would advise you to do nothing. Don’t beep the horn. Don’t roll down the window and yell. Don’t make any hand gestures. They’d advise you not to agitate in any way because there is a decent chance that aggressive driver is carrying a firearm.
According to a 2021 study by a gun-control advocacy group called Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, a person is shot and killed or wounded in a road-rage incident every 17 hours in the United States. A survey the same year by AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety concluded an average of 44 people per month were shot and killed or wounded in road-rage incidents.
AR-15s may be the scariest of firearms, but from a strictly statistical viewpoint handguns are deadlier. According to data collected by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2020, handguns were involved in 59 percent of the nation’s 13,620 firearm murders and non-negligent manslaughters, while rifles (the category that includes “assault weapons” such as AR-15s) were involved in three percent of firearm murders. (The remainder of firearm homicides and non-negligent manslaughters noted by the FBI involved different kinds of firearms or those classified as “type not stated.”)
We don’t know how many drivers are packing a firearm because licensure is not required.
Under Florida law, anyone 18 years of age or older can have a firearm in their vehicle without having a concealed carry permit or safety training — as long the firearm is not readily accessible for immediate use, not in open view to the driver or anyone else in the vehicle.
State Rep. Anthony Sabatini seemingly would be fine with drivers having any kind of firearm right next to them on the passenger seat — pistol, revolver, shotgun, AR-15. Sabatini, who is sort of a one-man crusade for firearms, proposed legislation that would have completely removed the licensure requirement to carry a concealed firearm. His bill (HB 103) made it to the Criminal Justice & Public Safety Subcommittee in March before — fortunately — dying.
Sabatini and his pro-gun colleagues use a convenient “mental health” label in dismissing gun-safety concerns. They claim it’s not about the types of guns or too many guns, it’s about the mental health of the person with the guns. If we can identify the mental-health issue and treat the shooter before the shooting, they say, there wouldn’t be any deadly shootings.
Mental health, that’s the Republican spin.
Obviously, if you’re a mentally healthy person, you are not shooting people at schools, grocery stores — or drivers in the next lane on the freeway. But these are individuals driven by anger, hate, and hateful ideologies. They are rarely true mental-health patients.
Road rage is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
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The Buffalo grocery store shooter was a purported racist. Racism is not a DSM mental-health disease.
The deadly violence against LGBT patrons at the downtown Orlando nightclub in 2016 was domestic terrorism — not the symptom of a DSM mental-health disease.
The mentally ill population is getting an undeserved bad name. The majority of those having mental-health diagnoses are harmless. They tend to be sensitive and withdrawn. They’re not known for violence and firearms.
Mental Health America, a community-based nonprofit organization, ranks Florida 49th out of 51 states in access to mental-health care.
If Florida lawmakers are not serious about passing significant gun-control legislation, and if they’re going to continue to falsely label mental health as the biggest factor in deadly shootings, they could at least back up their tough-guy talk by prioritizing mental-health resources for the state.
The state of Florida could benefit from a bigger budget and more beds for its mentally ill.
Mark Ryan, a registered nurse from Tallahassee, has worked at three DCF state mental hospitals.