Drinking and driving is already a deadly cocktail. New research finds that adding gun ownership to the mix increases the risk of violent outcomes.
A study that aimed to track about 80,000 legal gun buyers in California found that gun buyers with a DUI on their record were more likely to be arrested for a violent crime. This was the case, even though driving under the influence of alcohol was the only criminal conviction in his past.
About twelve years after the purchase of a weapon in 2001, Californians who had already been convicted of drunk driving were 2.5 times more likely than those without DUI convictions to be arrested on suspicion of murder, rape, theft or aggravated assault, according to the newspaper. study published this week in JAMA Internal Medicine. If the range of violent offenses was slightly expanded to include crimes such as harassment, harassment or child neglect, gun buyers with a previous DUI were more than three times more likely than those without DUI conviction to be arrested.
The new findings come when the California Assembly considers a bill that would revoke a person's right to own a gun for 10 years if he or she has been convicted of two or three (depending on the crime) offenses involving alcohol in a period of time. three years .
Senate Bill 55 was passed in May by a vote of 26-10. It is against California Gun Owners, an arms advocacy group and the American Civil Liberties Union, which argues that the bill would disproportionately affect blacks and fails to address the "root causes" of substance abuse and violent behavior.
Under California law, people convicted of crime cannot receive a state gun license. In addition, people convicted of felonies for crimes involving violence, hatred, illegal use of firearms and other things are not eligible for a 10-year license. SB 55 would add convictions for public intoxication, disorderly conduct under the influence of alcohol, and drunk driving to that list.
The new research helps bridge a gap in the research that led the then governor. Jerry Brown to veto an earlier version of the bill in 2013. By blocking the proposed law, Brown wrote that “he was not convinced that it is necessary to prohibit the possession of weapons based on non-criminal, non-violent and non-violent crimes. involves the misuse of a firearm. "
The study comes from researchers from UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program. Their findings suggest that denying gun ownership rights to people with a history of conviction for drunk driving would reduce violent crime and could save lives. In 2017, 14,542 homicides and more than 400,000 violent victimizations involved the use of a firearm.
But the researchers did not draw a causal line between drunkenness and criminal violence. Although approximately a third Of all gun deaths in the United States, it is thought to involve alcohol, these new findings do not suggest that alcohol itself induces or predisposes a gun owner to victimize others.
Instead, they suggest that in large populations, many people who engage in risky behaviors involving alcohol also engage in the types of risky behaviors that endanger other people's lives. And where excessive alcohol consumption and access to weapons are combined, impaired judgment can increase the risk that an individual prone to violent behavior will act.
In this sense, the new findings focus on a subgroup of gun owners that may have driven some of the disturbing findings from a 2011 study by Dr. Garen Wintemute, the director or the Violence Prevention Research Program and senior author of the new report.
Based on a survey of Americans' risk behaviors, Wintemute found that gun owners were generally twice as likely as those who don't have guns to drink a lot and 2.5 times more likely to get behind the wheel after drink, by their own admission, "Maybe too much."
The new study makes it clear that lawless behavior is not the norm among gun owners. The researchers were able to track 65,387 Californians aged 21-49 who bought a gun legally in 2001 and could still be found in the state in 2013. Of the predominantly male and mostly white buyers, 1,495 – less than 2% – had a prior conviction for drunk driving. And just over 14% of this small group of gun owners were arrested for violent crimes during their 12 years of study.
At that It's far higher than the 3% rate at which gun buyers without DUI or other convictions were arrested for a violent crime. (After adjusting for factors such as age, gender, and ethnicity, the researchers found that the risk for those with a prior DUI conviction was 2.5 to three times higher than those without such a conviction.)
By focusing on DUIs, "we have identified a risk factor for future violence among people who buy firearms, and the association is quite strong – an almost threefold increase in risk," said study leader Rose MC Kagawa. , assistant professor of emergency medicine at UC Davis.
At the same time, she acknowledged, the number of arms sales blocked by a measure such as SB 55 would be small, as would the number of violent crimes prevented.
"It's a balancing act," said Kagawa.
Such rules of reasoning Sam Walls, CEO of Gun Owners of California.
Using past or present behavior as a predictor of future violent acts – "this whole concept is very difficult," he said.
"Are you being stripped of your rights because someone believes you are a danger in the future?" Said Paredes. “I can't even imagine what the future consequences of such a perspective might be. These are not just weapons. This can translate into all sorts of things. "
A prior conviction for drunk driving appears to be a better predictor of future criminal violence than a previous conviction for other non-alcohol and nonviolent offenses, the study results suggest, but only slightly. Legal buyers of firearms with such a conviction on their rap chips were twice as likely as buyers with strictly clean records to be arrested for violent crime in the next twelve years.
"These findings unmistakably support California DUI conviction pending legislation," according to one editorial that accompanied the study.
While the number of potential gun offenders "may seem small," the widespread adoption of such laws "has the potential to prevent a greater number of acts of firearm violence," the trio wrote. injury prevention specialists from the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University.
Adopting a federal law like SB 55 – an unlikely prospect in the current Congress – "would decisively signal that as a nation we are as intolerant of mixing alcohol and firearms, so-called drunkenness shots, as well as drunk driving," they wrote. .