Is the American Automobile Association (AAA) Anti-Gun?

Update at bottom 

Latest Update 4/1/10

There’s been a lot of buzz about the incident in Northern Virginia on I-95 involving a dump truck ramming a Jaguar and the driver of the Jag responding with gunfire.

I haven’t commented because the details are still a little murky and I don’t want to jump to any premature conclusions.  It is unclear at this time whether the shooter’s actions were a result of anger, or legitimate fear for his and his child’s life in the face of a vehicular assault.

AAA seems not so reticent, however.  In this article about the incident, AAA Mid-Atlantic Manager of Public and Government affairs John Townsend is eager to take a stand:

“More than 1,500 people are killed or injured in road rage incidents each year in this country and when you add a gun to the mix the situation is more likely to spiral out of control,” said AAA John B. Townsend II. “Gun-toting drivers are more likely to become involved in road rage incidents, study after study has confirmed.”

Studies have shown that young men, and young adults overall, have admitted to making obscene gestures, cursing or blatantly shouting at other drivers while they were carrying a handgun, said Townsend. He quoted a 2006 Harvard study of 2,400 drivers, which showed motorists who carry guns inside their car are more likely to engage in road rage.

Of course, he claims the backing of “study after study” to rationalize his bigotry against gun owners, yet cites only one in support…one that happens to have been authored by perennial anti-gun hack “researcher” David Hemenway. The cited “study” consisted of a telephone poll which asked people if they had made obscene or rude gestures at another motorist, or had aggressively followed another vehicle too closely in the past year;  after a series of other inconsequential or demographic inquiries, the question “how many days in the past 12 months have you ridden in a motor vehicle in which there was a gun?” was asked.

No questions were asked as to whether a gun was present at the time the gesture or tail-gating incident occurred, whether the person answering the question was in possession, or even had access to, the firearm, whether the person who had possession of the firearm was licensed to carry a concealed handgun or even legally qualified to possess the firearm, or any other effort to clarify.

In other words, the “study” doesn’t even TRY to make the connection that it implies and that Mr. John Townsend of AAA contends is settled science.

In a prime example of the weakness of the methodology, John Lott, in reviewing the “Study” a while back, noted that:

The paper also has some funny results. For example, Liberals are apparently much more likely to engage in road rage than conservatives and the difference is larger than the difference between those who did and did not have a gun at least one time in their car over the last year. This variable is apparently never investigated, but presumably they are also concerned about liberals being allowed to drive cars.

I wonder, would Mr. Townsend of AAA condemn Liberals as quickly as he does gun owners based on this so obviously meaningless pseudo science?

I’ve got a call out to the National AAA Public Affairs office and am awaiting a callback to find out if Mr. Townsend’s statement is representative of AAA National policy, or only his own personal opinion.  I would contend that if Mr. Townsend was speaking as a private individual rather than a representative of AAA, he should have made that very clear.  If AAA does not endorse his sentiment, they should issue a statement to that effect as soon as possible as I’m sure it is information that the millions of law abiding gun owners in this country would like to know when making decisions about joining, or remaining a member, of their auto clubs.

I’ll update as soon as I get more information.

Update:  I never got my promised callback from the National PR person.  I called again today and got his voice mail.  I left him another message, but still haven’t gotten a return call.

Also, I replied to Mr. Townsend’s 7 paragraphs of not answering the question (see comments) via e-mail but he has so far declined to respond.

I’m trying to give them all the opportunities I can to clear this issue up but they simply don’t seem to be very worried about doing so.  Apparently, keeping gun owners as members simply doesn’t interest them very much.  I’m still not quite ready to declare them anti-gun and add them to my list of organizations I’ll never have anything to do with, but if they continue just ignoring the issue, I’ll have no choice but to assume that AAA officially endorses and supports the position stated by Mr. Townsend.

I’ll update again if I hear anything more from them or when I decide that I’m not going to…whichever comes first.

Crossposted on The Sentinel


11 thoughts on “Is the American Automobile Association (AAA) Anti-Gun?

  1. In reference to the incident on I-95. Frankly, we don’t see this as a gun issue, but as an aggressive driving/road rage issue. This is the issue that we are addressing, because many motorists who were on I-95 at the time were so unnerved by the incident. That’s our primary concern.

    Contrary to your statement, I was not making “a personal opinion.” Personally, I am a gun owner, I have been a member of NRA, and I am an avid skeet and trap shooter at my gun club. I have a certificate of Competency in Firearms and Hunter Safety, having completed the Maryland Hunter Education Course. I am joining the ATA this spring.

    In reference to the road rage incident, the article published by “” cited a previous study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety which analyzed the use of weapons in road rage incidents. That study showed that “Without question the most popular weapons used by aggressive drivers are firearms and motor vehicles.” It goes on to show that “In 37 percent of the cases a firearm was used; in 35 percent the weapon was the vehicle itself.”

    Since cars are used almost as frequently as guns, our focus is first on preventing such incidents and second on ensuring that perpetrators of road rage who threaten, injure or kill others are dealt with appropriately in the criminal justice system, whether they use a car, a tire iron, crossbow or gun.

    Using the databases of crime reports, our researchers analyzed all incidents of violence that involved traffic altercations and use of vehicles as weapons.” To this end, the researchers examined 10,037 known aggressive driving incidents.

    At the time of our landmark study, little was known about the extent and nature of aggressive driving behavior, road rage, and violent traffic altercations, in which a driver kills or injures or attempts to injure or kill another motorist, passenger or pedestrian in response to a traffic dispute, altercation or grievance. This was, and is, of great concern to motorists. Our recent studies show that nearly eight out of every 10 people surveyed rated aggressive drivers as a serious or extremely serious traffic safety problem (AAA Foundation Traffic Safety Culture Index 2008).

    Our focus, Mr. Stone, as always is road rage and aggressive driving and the threat such occurrences and episodes pose to safety and well-being of the motoring public.

  2. Thank you for commenting Mr. Townsend, but you didn't address the statement that I have the most problem with, namely:

    “Gun-toting drivers are more likely to become involved in road rage incidents, study after study has confirmed.”

    The question is: Did you make that statement and, if so, do you stand by it?

    Seven paragraphs that don't address the issue at hand…still don't address the issue at hand.

    BTW: "Gun Toter" is not an appellation commonly employed by NRA members and gun owners and it's always amazing to me how many people who've been documented to have made statements disparaging to gun owners subsequently claim to BE gun owners in order to improve their perceived credibility.

    As far as I'm concerned, being an anti-gun gun owner doesn't demonstrate credibility, it implies hypocrisy.

  3. As someone who is a member of AAA and is responsible for about 25 or so people who have decided to join over the past five years I am very concerned about the statements of Mr. Townsend. He fails to answer the question you posed. Though my money goes to AAA it shall cease and I shall urge others to cease if this is the type of attitude we see among AAA leaders.

  4. The study cited by Mr. Townsend in his comment is about 15 yrs old and uses data from the early 90's when violent crime was about twice what it is currently.

    The news article stated he cited Hemenway which, knowing the accuracy of the media, could be inaccurate. Either way the numbers don't add up.

  5. I agree …. JB Townsend II isn't answering the questions.

    And having a commerial drivers' license myself, were I to be rammed by a dump truck, I assure you that given the disparity in GVWR, I would respond with whatever firearms I had available.

  6. Jay, all you need do is look at how much $ these a##holes gives the dems every year. I haven't seen the numbers since back in the '90s, but it was in the 7 fig range then. Drop your AAA and AARP 'ships IMMEDIATELY!

  7. And no comment on whether those carrying a gun while displaying poor impulse control were legal to carry or criminals who carried anyway. I'm betting on the latter. (In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if felons were the ones specifically asked.)

  8. Today received an email from aaane. Anti gun is local clubs policy. I am canceling my membership. I have been a member for 26 years. I have a concealed carry permit from Nebraska. It is harder to get than most states. I have dealt with police in this area thru the business and work I have done for them the past 37 years. In my experience if there is one class of people that should not have a gun it is government personel.

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