Drivers’ Alcohol Abuse Can Predict Future Gun Violence: Study

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A California study links convictions for driving under the influence of alcohol to a higher risk of a violent crime committed with firearms.

The study, published in the Sept. 30 issue of JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) Internal Medicine, found that 9 percent of legal handgun purchasers with previous DUI convictions were arrested for murder, rape, robbery or aggravated assault.

“This is compared to 2 percent of purchasers with no prior criminal history at the time of purchase,” wrote Rose M. C. Kagawa, assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of California Davis, and lead author of the study.

“When we compared purchasers who only had DUI convictions and no other arrests or convictions with those who had no criminal history, a DUI conviction was associated with more than double the risk of future arrest for a violent crime.”

Kagawa and her team of researchers looked at criminal records of 78,878 California handgun purchasers between 2001 and 2013, using the California Department of Justice Dealer’s Record of Sale database.

The research built on earlier studies by the UC Davis Violence Prevention Program which associated risky alcohol use with arrests for violent crimes.

“Alcohol use is a well-established risk factor for firearm violence,” said Kagawa, “Our study suggests that handgun purchasers with a DUI conviction on their record at the time of purchase have a higher incidence of future violence and crime compared to purchasers without DUI convictions.”

Lending further weight to its conclusions, the study cited an earlier meta-analysis of research involving homicide offenders which indicated that an estimated 34 percent of people who committed homicide with a firearm were under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crime.

The researchers noted that the federal government and many states restrict the purchase and possession of firearms by members of high-risk groups, including persons convicted of felonies, domestic violence misdemeanors, and other violent misdemeanors.

“Comparable benefits may arise from similar restrictions on persons convicted of DUI crimes,” they wrote.

The full study can be downloaded here.

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