Idiots with Guns

When the news story broke that two Michigan drivers, both of whom had permits to carry handguns, had gotten into a road rage incident, I was frustrated and depressed, but not surprised. I had been predicting such an incident ever since we passed our carry permit law here in Minnesota in 2003. Given the reality of “Murphy’s Law” I knew it was only a matter of time.

But this particular incident ended with both men dead, making it even more significant, and more problematic. As we all know (or should know) when any of us in the carry community does something stupid and/or dangerous, there is always the specter of all of us getting painted with the same brush. The press just loves to report on the egregious misbehavior of private citizens who carry guns.

The sequence of events was not that unusual; someone gets annoyed over another driver’s actions, then, instead of controlling their emotions, they “act out” by driving in a reckless and threatening manner. According to ABC news:

“Robert Taylor, 56, and James Pullum, 43, were driving on a highway in Ionia, Mich., when Taylor began to closely follow Pullum, according to the Ionia Public Safety Department, based on witness reports.

The two drivers eventually pulled into the parking lot of Wonder Wand Car Wash, at the intersection of M-66 highway and Steele Street, where they got out of their vehicles and fired shots at each other, police said. The two men exchanged a total of eight to nine shots, police said.”

Such behavior is stupid enough when anyone does it, but for someone carrying a gun, it is totally unacceptable. Rather interesting is the history of Mr. Taylor, the alleged “aggressor” in the incident:

“Taylor had a misdemeanor conviction in 2006 for driving while intoxicated and separately for [illegally] carrying a gun in the car, Ionia County Prosecutor Robert Schafer told ABC News. As a result, his concealed weapons license was revoked for three years. He eventually applied and received a new license four years later in 2010, Schafer said.”

A single DWI and a non-violent firearm violation isn’t exactly the resume of a hardened criminal, but it does give a tiny hint that Mr. Taylor may have had more underlying problems. Regardless, his tailgating and pursuit of Mr. Pullum was completely indefensible, both legally and morally.

Also troubling were the views expressed by other permit holders, both in the “comments” section of this and other news stories, as well as in personal conversations. They were eager to declare which of these men was the “aggressor” or “at fault” in the incident.

To paraphrase Clark Gable (in “Gone with the Wind”), frankly, I don’t give a damn. With two permit holders involved, no matter how it ended up, it was going to reflect badly on all of us. If there is one thing NO permit holder should ever be doing, it’s engaging with another driver.

I spend a significant segment of my permit training classes discussing road rage, with the clear and unambiguous message that it is to be avoided at all costs. Sure, even if we are scrupulously courteous drivers (as we should be) it doesn’t mean we won’t one day encounter someone like Mr. Taylor. Even then, we should do everything to disengage. Get away. Call 911.

But for all our sakes, let it not be “one of us” who is the instigator.