Research on Guns and Road Rage


There is a new paper that is getting some attention that has just come out in the public health journal "Accident Analysis & Prevention." The paper by David Hemenway, Mary Vriniotix, and Matt Miller is entitled "Is an armed society a polite society? Guns and road rage." The paper is based on a survey of 2,400 drivers that the authors did. The survey asked respondents if they had made an obscene gesture to an opposing driver or whether they had aggressively followed another car. After that a series of descriptive questions were asked: gender, age, income, political views, urban/rural, and whether they have had a gun in their car at least one time over the last year. The authors make a simple comparison between those who have had a gun at least once in their car and those who didn't and say that the respective numbers are 23% and 16%. The authors imply that having a gun makes it more likely that one will engage in road rage.

There are multiple concerns with this analyis. Their questions make no attempt to ask whether a gun was in the car at the time the road rage incident occurred. Nor did they attempt to differentiate law-abiding permit holders from those who illegally possessed guns (e.g., asking respondents if they have a permit to carry a gun). This last point seems particularly important given that they want to make policy conclusions on concealed carry laws.

The paper also has some funny results. For example, Liberals are apparently much more likely to engage in road rage than conservatives and the difference is larger than the difference between those who did and did not have a gun at least one time in their car over the last year. This variable is apparently never investigated, but presumably they are also concerned about liberals being allowed to drive cars.

Finally, surveys can be a useful first approximation, but there is in fact much more direct evidence available on the behavior of concealed handgun permit holders. Despite almost four million Americans currently having permits to carry concealed handguns and some states having these laws for as long as eighty years, there is only one case in Alabama where a permitted concealed handgun was used to commit road rage. There are also other much more direct mesaures that indicate that people who have concealed handgun permits and who thus carry guns in their cars legally. For example, the fact that permit holders tend to be extremely law-abiding and lose their permit for violating gun regulations occurs for only hundredths or thousandths of one percent of permit holders. If they used their guns in the way that the authors of this study fear, their permits would have been revoked.

I have asked the authors for their data, but we will see when and how quickly I get it.

UPDATE: Hemenway is unwilling to provide the data for me to look at. My response is that if he or his co-authors are making comments to the press as they have, he is under an obligation to give out the data used in this paper. Despite putting together the largest data sets that have been put together on crime, I give out those data sets when the papers get media coverage even when they haven't been published yet. Hemenway's paper has been published. (The accuracy of this update was confirmed with my intern who talked to Hemenway and emailed him about obtaining this data. I had previously emailed one of the authors about obtaining the data, but I didn't receive a response.)

UPDATE 2: After a second telephone call, Hemenway said that while he will not give out the data used in the paper, he may reconsider providing a portion of the data, but that he can't make a decision before talking to his co-authors. He is also very busy and would not say when he would check into even this. (The accuracy of this update was confirmed with my intern who talked to Hemenway about obtaining this data.)

UPDATE 3: Well, it is official. Hemenway is not going to make his data available. This is true even though I have only asked for the data used in the published paper, and I am also happy to promise to use the data to only evaluate the research that the authors have already published. Hemenway complains about the comments that I have made regarding his study and concludes that: "no one on our research team believes that it will advance the science to provide even portions of the dataset semi-exclusively to Dr. Lott at this time." Of course, Hemenway inaccurately implies that I ever wanted the data set "semi-exclusively." I think that they should provide the data to everyone. I am probably just the only person to ask for it. (This update is based an email that Hemenway sent to Chris DeMuth, the president of AEI.)

Frank Main, the crime reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times, is the only reporter who has written on this study who mentions criticisms of the Hemenway, Vriniotix, and Miller research.

Clayton Cramer, Say Uncle, Geek with a .45, and The Donovan also have some notes on this research.

Correction: The original note mentioned that only one regression had been run by these authors. In fact, it turns out that four regressions had been run. The points listed above are now correct.



Blogger Nicki said...

It appears they're trying to claim that because their "research" shows a tendency to road rage among gun owners, that said gun owners are more likely to actually shoot the focus of their rage. I'm curious how they come to this conclusion.

I'm no statistician, but since the number of people who carry guns in their automobiles is considerably smaller than those who don't, wouldn't the percentage be higher even if only a handful of people admitted to road rage?

2/03/2006 8:35 AM  
Blogger OXEN said...

And in what states did Police "have the right to ban someone" from owning a gun?

2/03/2006 10:41 AM  
Blogger John Lott said...

Oxen: "In the past two decades 23 states have eased restrictions on carrying guns, says researcher Mary Vriniotis. Police no longer have the right to ban someone they consider unsuitable from owning a gun. People now only have to pass background checks, such as the absence of criminal convictions."

The paper obviously doesn't ask people if they were concealed carry permit holders. If this is what they were trying to address, the direct question would have been the way to deal with this.

2/03/2006 10:47 AM  
Blogger John Lott said...

Nicki, they have no evidence that these people actually use the guns. You would think that if this is what they were interested in, they would ask about it.

2/03/2006 10:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anyone have a copy of the paper?


2/03/2006 10:53 AM  
Anonymous pdb said...

"I have asked the authors for their data, but we will see when and how quickly I get it."

Sir, you are a boundless optimist.

2/03/2006 10:54 AM  
Anonymous John said...

Full disclosure would reveal that Hemenway's efforts are funded by ultra-liberal George Soros
His career has been advanced by the Pew and Robert Wood Johnson fundations, well known liberal advocacy groups.

2/03/2006 12:05 PM  
Blogger John Lott said...

That is true, but it is relevant. I don't believe that Hemenway or his co-authors hate guns because they have been paid to do so. I will say that the gun control advocates have a lot of money given to them to do what they want, but I would advocate that we get the government out of this area.

2/03/2006 12:22 PM  
Blogger John Lott said...

SayUncle, I will email it to you.

2/03/2006 2:46 PM  
Blogger Nicki said...

John, can you put me on that list too? I'd like to see the actual paper as well. I'd really appreciate it.



2/03/2006 3:08 PM  
Blogger John Lott said...


2/03/2006 3:10 PM  
Anonymous Emilio said...

Hemenway, most likely, is refusing to release data sets out of fear of being busted. Here is South Africa, Dr. Richard Wesson, at the launch of GOSA (gun owners of SA), told me of how researchers can be discredited by showing how and where they falsified their data sets. Dr. Richard Wesson often calls for the stripping of any title bestowed on such researchers who lie. Dr. Richard Wesson had some success in discrediting Dr. Anthony Altbeker's "research" that "proves" you are four times more likely to be disarmed and shot with your own gun than you are in sucessfully defending yourself with the same firearm in SAfrica.

2/03/2006 3:46 PM  
Anonymous JZumrick said...

Was this published in a Journal where articles are reviewed by other peers for accuracy?

No matter, it seems a large leap to go form a higher percentage who have had a gun in the car and given another driver the finger to indicting those who carry guns legally.

2/03/2006 6:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about guns that are being transported to and from stores and gun ranges? Just because someone had a gun in the car doesn't mean they were planning on using it. (They may use it, or may not.)

The study should really focus on people who carry [legally] in their car specifically for self-defense.

2/03/2006 11:25 PM  
Blogger John Lott said...

Dear JZumrick:

Public Health journals don't have very high academic standards when it comes to public policy issues. There are so many things here that are obvious problems that they didn't deal with.

2/04/2006 12:38 AM  
Blogger kldimond said...

John Lott Said:
I don't believe that Hemenway or his co-authors hate guns because they have been paid to do so.

I'm sure you're right. But they do hate guns to the point of brewing up junky study after junky study to create ostensible evidence in support of their irrational view.

Pew, Soros and crowd pay them because of this and because of the Harvard ethos' tendency to impact the gullible. If Harvard put it out, it must be good, right? Ve Ri Tas. Ha!

I can't imagine Harvard being hard up enough for those grants to endure the black eye Hemenway gives it by his easily-discerned junk science.

2/04/2006 6:12 AM  
Anonymous CL said...

two thoughts
A) "There are lies, damned lies, and statistics" Samual Clemens
( more so from the liberal version of "stastics).

B) this so called "road rage" is another liberal concoction. How come there is no data being gathered showing the relationship between "road stupidity" and so called road rage ,which more often than not is in fact road frustration rather than rage.

2/05/2006 12:34 PM  
Anonymous R.D. Boyles said...

Don't expect to get any of Hemmenway's research. He'll procrastinate, lie, do anything he can to hide what he knows is the truth about guns. I think he, Soros, et. al are liberal, unpatriotic people who have no respect or understanding for the Constitution and its Amendments.

2/05/2006 3:55 PM  
Blogger Wadical said...

I'd like to know just what the hell having a gun in the car has to do with getting angry at other motorists. It proves nothing.

I'm guilty of getting angry at other motorists on more than one occasion. If anything the very fact that I have a gun is a conscious reminder in the back of my head to steer clear of physical altercations.

Why don't they do a study on how many of those road ragers had to go to the bathroom really bad at the time (that'd sure make me in a hurry) or how many have hemmoroids or how many consume more than one cup of coffee a day, or how many were in the midst of some domestic strife? Hell, maybe their shoes were too tight, who knows? There are just too many variables that contribute to one losing their temper to be able to draw any conclusion to anyone's likelyhood of doing so based on what weapons they might have at their disposal.

2/05/2006 6:32 PM  
Blogger Ryan said...

It is hard for peer review to catch falsified data in the first place because most people falsify a "good" set of data. Peer review mostly attempts to weed out bad science (though in the case of gun control it seems they close their eyes). Recently a norweigian researcher was caught fabriacting a data set of over 900 people in a study on cancer treatment. The only reason he was busted was that the administrator of the database he claimed to use read the paper and knew the info didn't come from the database. I am suprised that the journal doesn't have rules dictating full discolosure of data. I often question the validity in my field if the authors do not wish to share published data sets.

2/06/2006 1:56 PM  
Blogger Timothy A. Logsdon said...

Research? I call bullfeathers! It sounds like they decided on a conclusion, then tried to make it sound like the data fit. Why do leftist extremists get do decide what "road rage" means? I seem to recall that when the term was first coined, it had something to do with violence. Although when I was younger, aggressive meant "assertive: characterized by or exhibiting determination, energy, and initiative", but I think that a lot of these misinterperet my assertive driving to be "showing a readiness or having a tendency to attack or do harm to others" or "attacking or taking action without provocation or without waiting for an enemy to make the first move" I believe these left wing extremists are the ones most likely to drive slowly in the passing lane then hit there brakes when you approach their vehicle, which is obviously a sign that they have a tendency to do harm to others. I once flipped some lady off right after she cut me off and slammed on her brakes while we were traveling down the highway, but it was because of her actions, not my gun ownership. I felt bad about flipping her off, so I don't do that anymore. Now I just smile and wave, which sometimes confuses them, and is more fun. I was once cut off and forced to apply my brakes aggressively in NYC while I was travelling through and pulling a heavy trailer one winter. I wasn't able to stop before lightly bumping the guy's SUV. I had about a dozen firearms and a few thousand rounds of ammunition in the cab of my truck and on my person, and even though I wasn't happy that he cut me off, I acted apologetic and polite, even after he threatened to cut my throat. No damage was done to either vehicle and nobody was hurt, but I was the one who held my temper, not the guy who most likely never touched a gun in his life. That "research" is bogus.

2/07/2006 1:37 AM  
Anonymous DJStuCrew said...

Whatever happened to "publish or perish?" I mean, any reputable study will be extensively foot-noted and contain the data within it for other researchers to review. This is how peer review works. Any so-called researcher or scientist that isn't open with his/her data is either trying to hide something or not confident in their work. Either way, it's best to remain skeptical.

BTW, wasn't it our own Mr. Lott who, when he first started off down this line of research, thought he'd score an easy paper on the link between violent crime and gun ownership / carry and ended up being surprised by what he found? I seem to recall a story like that.

2/07/2006 6:57 AM  
Blogger SouthpawKnuckler said...

Hey, can I get a look at the original paper too?

2/07/2006 7:38 AM  
Anonymous DWMF said...

It's nothing to do with guns. We seal-clubbing, baby-chomping, gas-guzzling conservatives tend to drive cars with bigger engines. For a given speed or power, they turn over at a lower rpm, and give out a low-pitch rumble, insead of a high-pitched buzzing. As a result, we are more laid-back at the wheel and in better humor generally. This is definitely my own experience since I started driving a 4-litre Jaguar.

2/19/2006 2:53 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home