Alcohol Use and Firearm Violence

Branas, C. C., Han, S., & Wiebe, D. J. (2016). Alcohol use and firearm violence. Epidemiologic reviews38(1), 32-45.


Although the misuse of firearms is necessary to the occurrence of firearm violence, there are other contributing factors beyond simply firearms themselves that might also be modified to prevent firearm violence. Alcohol is one such key modifiable factor. To explore this, we undertook a 40-year (1975-2014) systematic literature review with meta-analysis. One large group of studies showed that over one third of firearm violence decedents had acutely consumed alcohol and over one fourth had heavily consumed alcohol prior to their deaths. Another large group of studies showed that alcohol was significantly associated with firearm use as a suicide means. Two controlled studies showed that gun injury after drinking, especially heavy drinking, was statistically significant among self-inflicted firearm injury victims. A small group of studies investigated the intersection of alcohol and firearms laws and alcohol outlets and firearm violence. One of these controlled studies found that off-premise outlets selling takeout alcohol were significantly associated with firearm assault. Additional controlled, population-level risk factor and intervention studies, including randomized trials of which only 1 was identified, are needed. Policies that rezone off-premise alcohol outlets, proscribe blood alcohol levels and enhance penalties for carrying or using firearms while intoxicated, and consider prior drunk driving convictions as a more precise criterion for disqualifying persons from the purchase or possession of firearms deserve further study.

Keywords: alcohol; firearm; gun ownership; gun possession; homicide; injury; suicide.