A Gun in the Vehicle Triggers Aggressive Driving

Debates about “open carry” laws usually revolve around gun owners’ rights. The psychological effect of having all those guns around is seldom discussed—which is odd, considering that 50 years of research suggests the mere presence of a firearm tends to bring out people’s aggressiveness.

There is now evidence that this dynamic extends to a specific and dangerous scenario: driving an automobile.

In a newly published study, “people drove more aggressively when a gun was present in their car—even though they did not put the gun there,” reports a research team led by Brad Bushman of Ohio State University.

The finding is particularly disturbing given that “aggressive driving accounts for more than half of all traffic fatalities,” according to the American Automobile Association’s Foundation for Traffic Safety.

The study, published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, featured 60 university students. After filling out a questionnaire designed to determine their inherent aggressiveness, each participant was escorted into a driving simulator, which included a driver seat and passenger seat.

It appears that guns can kill people even without being fired.

Half of the participants entered to find “an unloaded black airsoft training pistol on the passenger seat, which looks like a real 9mm semi-automatic handgun.” They were told to “Please leave the gun exactly where it is. It is unloaded. It is for a different study involving police officers.”

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