Concealed handgun permit holders much less likely to drive recklessly than other drivers

Sep 25, 2017 | Featured

Some public health researchers have attempted to link permitted concealed carry to aggressive or reckless driving.  Before turning to two of the papers by public health researchers, let’s look at some of the data on driving behavior.  Just as handgun permit holders are incredibly law-abiding, they also drive much more responsibly than the general public. (Click on the table to enlarge.)

(Example of data sources used in table: (257.6254 and 257.6258), reckless driving, and numbers for permit holders)

The table shows that, compared to permit holders, permitless individuals are 2.4 times more likely to drive drunk. They are 34.1 times more likely to drive under the influence of a controlled substance, and 10.6 times more likely to drive recklessly.  Across these three types of driving violations, non-permit holders were 12.2 times more likely to be violating the law.

We have data for Texas in 2016 on the rate of reckless driving by permit holders, but not the rate for the rest of drivers in the state.  Still, while the comparison is only suggestive because enforcement rates can vary across states, Michigan non-permit holders are about also more likely to drive recklessly than Texas permit holders (0.0401% v 0.016%).

The demographics for permit holder drivers and permitless drivers seem to indicate that one would expect permit holders to be more likely to drink, use drugs, or engage in reckless driving.  Men are much more likely than women to drink while driving (81% to 19%) and permit holders are much more likely to be men in Michigan than those with driver’s licenses (72.6% to 27.4%).  The same applies for reckless driving.  This difference by gender strongly suggests that permit holders are much more inclined to engage in DUIs and reckless driving than drivers generally.

Driver’s license holders tend to be both younger and older than permit holders, and younger drivers are more likely to both be arrested for DUIs, using controlled substances, and reckless driving.  But permit holders are so much more likely to be males that young males make up a larger percentage permit holders than they do of driver’s license holders.  Nationwide, men between the age of 20 to 34 account for 32% of DUIs, but only  12.8% of drivers.  We couldn’t find the age and gender breakdown of DUIs in Michigan, but men between the age of 20 and 34 make up just slightly less than the same percentage of drivers as they do nationally (12%).  That age group of men make up an estimated 14% percentage of permit holders compared to 12% for driver’s licenses (Source: Concealed Pistol License Unit were able to pull M and F (gender) data from 2016 to Current).

As to claims that simply having a gun on the person makes them drive more recklessly, there is some recent evidence from the PEW Research Center that indicates that permit holders carry their guns with them quite frequently.

Michael Bloomberg’s Organization and Public Health Claims that Have Gotten Media Coverage

An article earlier this year in the New York Times pushed claims by Michael Bloomberg’s The Trace that concealed handgun permit holders were causing an increase in road rage. Bloomberg’s group’s evidence was that the number of road rage incidents in the US involving road rage and people with gun rose from 247 to 620 between 2014 and 2016 and concealed handgun permits were also rising over that period of time.  They also pointed out that a couple of the states with a lot of concealed handgun permit holders (Florida and Texas) also had more road rage with firearm incidents.  Unlike our report that looked at all convictions, their data were based on news reports, which may vary simply if the media tends to become more interested in covering a particular story.  The number three state is California ranked 46th in terms of concealed handgun permits per capita.   More importantly, there was absolutely no attempt to link these incidents to concealed handgun permit holders. The evidence that we have for Michigan and Texas directly shows how rare it is for permit holders to be involved in any type of reckless behavior while driving.

One paper by Hemenway, Vriniotis, & Miller (2006) conducted a survey that asked respondents whether they’d had a gun in their car at least once over the past year. Then they asked respondents if they’ve made an obscene gesture or driven aggressively sometime in the last year. But the researchers made no attempt to ascertain whether a gun was in the car at the time of the road rage incident. Nor did they attempt to differentiate law-abiding permit holders from those who possess guns illegally. The survey should have simply asked people whether they have a concealed carry permit.

Dr. Lott explained some of the problems with this paper in a letter to the editor in New Scientist (February 22, 2006):

Also a single cross-sectional survey tells us nothing about causation. Ironically, the researchers’ regression results also show that liberals are much more likely to engage in road rage (both making obscene gestures and driving aggressively) than conservatives, and that the difference is larger than the difference for whether one had carried a gun in the car at least once. This variable is apparently never investigated, but presumably the researchers are also concerned about liberals being allowed to drive cars.

Surveys can be a useful first approximation, but, as noted above, there is in fact much more direct evidence available on the behavior of concealed handgun permit holders.

The other paper by Bushman, Kerwin, Whitlock, and Weisenberger ran experiments where either a tennis racket or a plastic BB gun was placed on the passenger seat of the car.  The researchers found that people drove more recklessly when they were accompanied by the plastic BB gun.  

There are many poorly done aspects of this experiment.  At the very least, researchers needed to have the same drivers switch between the tennis racket and the BB gun.  Some should have started with the gun and others should have started with the racket.

But there is an even more basic potential problem.  If the subjects know why the experiment is being done, they might concur with the anti-gun agenda of the experiment and choose to drive more recklessly when the BB gun is present.  Obviously, real-world data from Michigan shown above doesn’t face the same potential bias, and it shows that permit holders who are much more likely to have guns in their cars are much more law-abiding when it comes to driving.

Our research here has gotten coverage at Fox News.


Hemenway, D., Vriniotis, M., & Miller, M. (2006). Is an armed society a polite society? Guns and road rage. Accident Analysis and Prevention,

Brad J. Bushman, Thomas Kerwin, Tyler Whitlock, Janet M. Weisenberger. (2017). “The weapons effect on wheels: Motorists drive more aggressively when there is a gun in the vehicle,” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology

Media Coverage

New York Times, April 25, 2017

Miami Herald, August 1, 2017

International Business Times, July 3, 2017

New Scientist, February 2006

Note on evaluating studies

Finally, it is very disappointing that the authors of one of these studies (David Hemenway, Mary Vriniotis, and Matthew Miller) have continued their practice of being unwilling to provide other researchers with their data, even when the authors have been promised that the data will only be used to evaluate the research that the authors have already published. Once a paper is published and the researchers are discussing their published results in the media, it seems incumbent upon them to make their data public so that a meaningful discussion can take place.


1 Comment

  1. OldRed

    Maybe they don’t publish the data because there isn’t any or it doesn’t agree with paper. I have seen a number of papers the data didn’t agree with conclusion with out a liberal application of Bay’s Theorem using something that didn’t make any sense to me.


Talk in Santiago, Chile on More Guns, Less Crime

Talk in Santiago, Chile on More Guns, Less Crime Dr. John Lott gave a talk in Santiago, Chile on "Murder Rates and Private Gun Ownership", organized by ANTRA, FECHITIDE, and AGAPECH. The murder rate in Chile has been increasing as the drug cartels have been making a move here. The...