New research by the Violence Prevention Research Program found that alcohol may be a better predictor of future criminal behavior than simply looking to see if the a person has a criminal history.
Alcohol Use And Crime
For the study, researchers in in California examined data on more than 4,000 handgun buyers in the state between 1977 and 1991. Researchers looked at criminal histories of gun buyers beginning 15 days after they purchased their firearm. They then compared the data to gun owners who had previous convictions for alcohol-related crimes, like driving under the influence, drunken disorderly conduct, public intoxication, etc.
What they found is that individuals with prior alcohol-related convictions were between four and five times as likely as people with no criminal histories to be arrested for a future violent or firearm-related crime. Conversely, being arrested for previous violent or non-violent crimes was a weak predictor of future crime likelihood. Researchers concluded that this means alcohol use may be a better predictor of future criminal activity than having previous convictions.
That’s not to say that you can’t have a drink if you own a firearm, or you shouldn’t own a gun if you like to have the occasional drink, but considering that roughly 12 million firearm owners binge drink over a 30-day stretch, and 3.6 million report drinking heavily on a continuing basis, the findings are somewhat concerning.
Alcohol and Violent Crime
Researchers say the findings aren’t perfect, and the data they used was rather old, but they expect to find similar results in a study they are currently conducting using arrest data from between 2001 and 2013. Even thought the findings have some flaws, researchers say this isn’t the first study to find a relationship between alcohol consumption and crime. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence estimates that alcohol is a factor in about 40 percent of all violent crime, and a separate study from 2010 found a connection between the presence of alcohol stores and gun assaults.
Charles Branas, who authored the 2010 study, said alcohol doesn’t make people inherently more aggressive. Instead, it takes away some of their ability to make sound decisions.
“It’s a disinhibition theory,” said Branas. “So it’s not so much aggressiveness, but that decisions and judgment that would normally be held in check are suddenly disinhibited under consumption of alcohol.”
Curtailing crime is never easy, but it’s interesting to see the link between alcohol consumption and violent crime. Perhaps lawmakers and government officials will begin to formulate crime reduction initiatives that involve either restrictions to alcohol for violent offenders or other measures like an alcohol tax.