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What happens when you bring a gun to a road rage? Well, nothing good, of course!

The most hardcore of opponents to any kind of gun control legislation will tell you that guns are meant to protect people from bad guys with guns. They’ll try to convince you that a mother living in a suburban neighborhood absolutely needs an assault rifle in her home because there could be a marauding hoard trying to break in. (In Donal Trump’s world, that marauding hoard would be made up of all Mexicans, all trying to rape the woman in question.) Some of them will show up at department stores with assault rifles because… Well, just because.

Everyone knows some messed up things can happen at "Chopping Malls"

Everyone knows some messed up things can happen at “Chopping Malls”

The statistics are very clear that having a gun in your household increases the risk of you being shot. The reasons for this are many, and they’re not meant to be some sort of scare tactic to make you think twice about having a gun. Your risk increases because of the simple fact that you have a gun. No gun in the house means the risk is as close to zero as it can get. (It’s not zero because there are no absolutes.) In some cases, you have a gun because you live in a bad neighborhood. In that case, your risk is elevated because of your environment as a whole, not only because of the gun. In other cases, any instance of mental health problems may make you more prone to use the gun against you or others.

One thing is for sure, though: The gun is not going to stand up and shoot you on its own.

The problem with guns and violence is very complex. There are mental health issues, problems with conflict resolution, cultural norms, and lack of impulse control. (These are not all mutually exclusive nor collectively exhaustive, by the way.) One example that brought these things into a sharp and depressing focus is what happened to Tammy Meyers in Las Vegas back in February. Here is the report from NBC news:

“The police account provides the most details yet into a complicated and conflicting case that initially appeared to be a random road rage incident that rattled residents of Las Vegas.

The events of that night began as Meyers and her 15-year-old daughter were returning home from a driving lesson — that’s when a silver car pulled up beside them and the daughter reached over and honked the horn, police said.

Suddenly, the car cut in front of them and then “spun sideways” to block their path. The driver, described as 6 feet tall, exited his car and told her, “I’m gonna’ come back for you and your daughter,” according to the warrant.”

So a mom is driving her teenage daughter and someone cuts them off and threatens them. Does the mom call the police and make a report? Does she run home and lock herself and her daughter in there and call the police and make a report?

No. She does something that boggles my mind:

“Her mother was able to speed around the car and they returned home, where the daughter was told to wake up her 22-year-old brother, Brandon.

Brandon Meyers grabbed his 9mm Beretta and went outside and told his mom to come inside and call the police — but she refused, and told him to come with her, or she’d go by herself.”

And now, the 22-year-old son, an adult, has to make a decision. Does he call the police and make a report? Does he hold mom back and try to talk some sense to her, not allowing her to go out there and confront someone who has just threatened her? Or does he say “screw it” and heads out to hunt down the road rager?

Again, my mind cannot comprehend:

“Brandon and his mother went looking for the car, and eventually found a car she thought was involved in the earlier incident, which led to a chase. According to Brandon Meyers, the cars stopped on a nearby street and the front seat passenger of the silver car began shooting at their vehicle.

The mother and son sped away and returned to their house, which sits on a cul-de-sac, the warrant says. Brandon Meyers said that’s when the silver car appeared, and the front seat passenger again shot at them.”

Decision time again. Do they back off, not knowing what kind of firepower the other guy has, or does Brandon start firing back? Well, all the decisions up to this moment have been the wrong ones, so “screw it”, let’s have a firefight:

“Brandon Meyers said he shot back, firing three times. The other car backed out of the cul-de-sac, leaving Tammy Meyers lying on the ground bleeding from a gunshot wound to the head.”

So we have lack of impulse control on the part of the mother and the road rager. Then we have a lack of good judgment from Brandon Meyers. And we tie it all in a knot with gun culture.

So what about the guy that shot at them? Here’s his version of events:

“Nowsch told his friends that the incident was sparked after he was sitting in a park near the school parking lot and saw the green car, which he thought was following him. That’s when he called another friend in a silver Audi sedan to pick him up. According to the friends, Nowsch said there was an exchange between the two cars, and the green car followed them.

Nowsch told the friends he thought he saw a gun being waved from the window of that car, so he “put a clip in his gun and started shooting at the green car,” according to the warrant.

When he met with friends early the next morning after the incident, he appeared happy and coherent, they said. He told them that he “got those kids, they were after me, and I got them.” Nowsch said he opened fire on someone running from the car they’d followed, and he was sure he hit someone, according to the warrant.”

That’s right. Nowsch was not the driver who cut off Tammy and her daughter initially in the incident that made Tammy go grab her son and his gun. Nowsch was apparently suffering from what I can only guess was some sort of paranoid delusion:

“Nowsch allegedly opened fire on Meyers and her son, Brandon, 22, outside of their home, and struck Tammy Meyers in the head. Brandon Meyers returned fire, but no one was hit, authorities have said.

“Everywhere I went that car was there. It was there. I just had threats earlier that morning on my phone,” Nowsch said.”

So Nowsch had been seeing “a green car” all over the place, thinking people who were after him were in it. By a sad coincidence, Tammy Meyers and her son Brandon were in a green car. By another sad coincidence, Nowsch’s friend had a silver car that looked like the one that cut-off Tammy and her daughter. And the saddest coincidence of it all? Both sides had guns.

It didn’t help that Erich Nowsch was high on marijuana as well.

Look, I’m not saying that things would have turned out better if one side or another didn’t have a gun. It was too late by the time the two sides started shooting at each other. The initial mistake was probably Tammy in going to grab Brandon and his gun and heading out for some street justice. You can even make the case that the initial mistake was whoever was driving that silver car that cut-off Tammy and her daughter… Or her daughter for honking the horn.

What matters at this point is that this is very much not the only case in the United States (and the world, but you don’t care about the world, do you?) where gun culture, lack of impulse control, and very possibly mental health issues came to a head. I haven’t found in any articles how either side acquired the gun, but I’m almost willing to bet that it was legally since neither side is being charged with illegal possession of a firearm. And I’m betting that this was not the first time that Erich Nowsch was violent, especially after he’s been charged with a violent incident involving a knife and a child that happened while he was being sought by police over the shooting.

Advocates for gun control seem, for the most part, to want to focus on keeping guns away from all people or some people. That’s all fine and good as long as the reasons for blocking access to firearms passes constitutional muster. Advocates for gun rights don’t want their lovely machines of death to be touched at all by anyone for any reason. The worst of the worst refuse to acknowledge that, like other constitutional rights, there are times when some people should not be allowed to bear arms. Both sides scream past each other and never seem to come to an agreement on what to do. Whether it is by ego or just plain ignorance, neither side wants to “lose.”

Imagine that… Two sides refusing to back down and be reasonable. What could possibly go wrong? What good can possibly come from that?

"Road Rage" by Irish Typepad (CC BY -NC -ND 2.0)

“Road Rage” by Irish Typepad via Flickr (CC BY -NC -ND 2.0)

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René F. Najera, DrPH

I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
About History of Vaccines: I am the editor of the History of Vaccines site, a project of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Please read the About page on the site for more information.
About Epidemiological: I am the sole contributor to Epidemiological, my personal blog to discuss all sorts of issues. It also has an About page you should check out.

1 reply

  1. Many years ago, I had a concealed carry permit and carried a concealed firearm. I did live in a rather lousy neighborhood, with the police district being a rarely admitted disciplinary district. The officers we had were foul-ups, screw ups, corrupt and pretty much on the way out. Not the most stable of environments, to put it mildly. To add to the misery, poverty was the norm.
    So, crime was rather high. On my first month there, I was walking across the park to pick up some beer from the local bar and had a gun shoved into my back, to hear “You know what time it is”.
    I turned around with a confused look on my face and as he tried to explain the armed robbery, he was removed from his firearm and not objecting very much. I was much younger, in full fighting trim and still military. His weapon joined quite a few others in various incidents that relieved young toughs from their firearms, eventually to depart the neighborhood for where people weren’t quite so skilled in martial arts and military methods.
    Needless to say, it wasn’t the brightest thing to do, it was necessary. My wife is disabled and that house was not bulletproof.
    Fortunately, the neighbors noticed things got better and started to join me on my evening walks. Eventually, a man volunteered to be block captain and organized a town watch.
    In the middle of that mess, Pennsylvania turned into a “shall issue” state, previously, there were abuses and certain folks (thing race) were always refused a concealed carry permit for no valid reason, so the courts ordered a “shall issue” policy be created.

    A year and change later, as I was cleaning that great chunk of heavy steel, I was thinking, “Since when does the armed criminal give you a chance to pull this POS out?!”.
    End of story, I put it into its safe and it only came out to fire at the range.

    As a competition shooter and hunter, I do believe in firearms ownership. As a sane person, I do not belong to the NRA and won’t belong to them until they go back to a sportsman’s organization, as was true before 1970. I do *not* want insane persons, village idiots or assholes having a firearm, all are safety violations and extreme risks.
    The latter the one with the AR15, locking a magazine into the magazine well, loading a round, then sticking the booger picker into the trigger guard and onto the trigger with no target present. 7 – 10 pounds of pressure later, fire, brimstone and thunder follow a bullet that will travel for a few miles.
    The ranges I frequent only permit more than three rounds into a magazine of a semiautomatic rifle. I like that, no chance of twenty three rounds firing from a malfunctioning firearm that had a thirty round magazine in it. Military loaded magazines are only present at competition with military style firearms, in which I do compete.
    Volume of fire crap gets you off of the range forever.
    Precision, slow fire tournaments is how we roll. We even participate against the military in some matches.
    National Match ammunition is expensive, human lives priceless, we act just that way.
    Alcohol or other intoxicants and firearms are some of the most severe safety violations as well.

    As for this story, mom got home, then turned into the village idiot. Her son was young, but showed idiocy beyond mere youth and likely, thought that gun was a magical shield.
    A firearm is anything but a shield. It’s a bullet launcher, the bullets beyond dumb and doing precisely what they’re supposed to do – follow the laws of physics. If an intended target (aka an innocent person) is in the path of the non-aimed or poorly aimed firearm, that person is going to have a hole bludgeoned into them, tissue death in an approximately 60 degree cone and a lot of pain and blood loss.
    I’ve seen buddies get hit by bullets and treated them. I’ve saw and created similar and worse injuries to those who were shooting at us. It’s very, very, very ugly. I’ll not invite anyone to witness that. ED doctors get to see that and I’m far from happy that they have to see it.
    Both parties then compounded their phenomenal burst of intra-cranial flatulence by hunting the individual who annoyed them.
    They found, possibly the annoying party, likely someone driving a similar car, then went into sheer insanity on both sides.

    Oh, for the record, the maniacs of NRA extremists will pounce on the “clip” bit, a clip is a strip of metal that is open, holding the base of the rounds and is either inserted into a magazine (causing bruised thumbs after the third magazine or so), an en bloc clip that was and is used in an M1 Garand rifle of WWII fame. The latter had the en bloc clip eject after the last round was fired, to give a highly distinctive ping when it hit the ground or other object. Soldiers being of average to above average intelligence (yes, that’s a standard created by various tests that determined the bright can override the survival instinct), figured out to carry a spare empty en bloc clip and toss it out after firing a few rounds.
    The proper term is magazine.
    I’ll call the statement of “loading a clip (magazine) into the pistol” crap. I’m aware of no human who carries an empty pistol, with a magazine *somewhere* not inside of the weapon. He’s trying to avoid carrying a concealed weapon, loaded weapon and a handful of other charges.

    So, short version.
    Someone got annoyed. That someone then went out looking for trouble. That someone met someone else looking for trouble. Trouble found itself, mutual attempt to collect a Darwin Award.
    As far as I’m concerned, all parties concerned shouldn’t be trusted with anything more dangerous than an infant feeding spoon.


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