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Police investigate one of the vehicles involved in a highway shooting in New Jersey. [Dale Gerhard/The Press of Atlantic City via AP]

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More People are Pulling Guns During Road-Rage Incidents

There have been at least 325 road-rage gun incidents so far this year.

In the early hours of Sunday morning, a 4-year-old Cleveland boy was shot in the head while riding in his mother’s car. The woman told police that she had honked at another vehicle that had been blocking her path — and that the vehicle followed her onto the highway. A man who’d been in the front seat of the car later called the boy’s mother to tell her he’d been a passenger but hadn’t fired shots. Both he and the alleged gunman have been charged.

The bullet did not penetrate the boy’s brain, and he is expected to survive.

On Tuesday, a man driving a minivan with a woman and two children in the vehicle shot the driver of a pickup truck in the legs, following an argument about a near-miss traffic collision in Tennessee. In Wichita Falls, Texas, on Sunday, a 38-year-old man in a Chevy Silverado was driving erratically before getting out of his truck and waving a gun at another driver and then taking off again.

In April, the The Trace reported that road-rage altercations involving guns have increased dramatically in the United States, more than doubling from 241 recorded in 2014 to 623 last year. The pace shows no signs of letting up. In the first six months of 2017, there were at least 325 incidents, our analysis of incidents tracked by the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive found — nearly two each day. The rate, which includes fatal and nonfatal shootings, along with disputes in which someone brandished a gun, is on pace to surpass last year’s total.  

The Gun Violence Archive relies on news and police reports to alert it to shootings, so these figures are almost certainly an undercount.

At least 38 people have died so far this year in a road-rage gun incident, including a 2-year-old girl in Memphis who was shot in June. Another 109 have been injured.

Disputes on the road take this dangerous turn most frequently in big states with loose gun laws. Armed road rage is most common in Texas and Florida, pioneers of concealed carry and the culture of going armed in public. So far this month, four of the reported 15 road rage-gun incidents have taken place in Texas — more than the total for any other state.

GUNS AND ROAD RAGE

Cities with the most incidents, January 2014 through August 2017

SOURCE: Gun Violence Archive

On August 4 in Texas, a man pointed a gun out of his driver’s-side window at a woman as they drove on the highway. The woman promptly posted a video of the interaction on Facebook. It’s since been viewed more than 11.5 million times.

Florida also has a “stand your ground” law that allows those who shoot in self-defense to avoid prosecution. (An update to the law, which required prosecutors to prove that a defendant should not be protected by “stand your ground,” was declared unconstitutional by a Florida judge last month.) The law has been used in multiple road-rage cases, including one from April 2016, in which a man was fatally shot during a dispute over who cut whom off. Prosecutors eventually dropped all charges against the gunman.

[Graphics: Daniel Nass]