Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
January 27, 2003
Alcohol abuse major source of crime
SPECIAL TO THE WCR
One of the frequently cited rationales for gun control legislation is crime prevention. Circumventing use of firearms in domestic violence is often singled out in particular, although it escapes me as to how forcing people to register guns is likely to inhibit their employment in crimes of passion.
It's not credible that a would-be killer would reach for his gun in the heat of the moment, then think: "Dag-nab it! Can't shoot anyone with this piece; it's registered."
I don't mean to make light of the hideousness of domestic violence, but the notion that gun registration will do anything to prevent such tragic incidents is plain silly, which puts the appalling expenditure of $1 billion on the long gun registration program into its proper perspective.
The fact is that guns, registered or otherwise, are used in a relatively small minority of crimes. On the other hand, alcohol is arguably the largest single factor in a wide spectrum of crimes and social distempers, including murder, suicide, rape, child molestation, and other crimes of violence.
Nearly a third of convicted child molesters had been drinking prior to their offence. Of convicted murderers surveyed in 1986, 23.6 per cent admitted being under the influence of alcohol at the time of the offence. Similar percentages have been found for rape, robbery, kidnapping, burglary, and arson convicts. In the U.S. it is estimated that as high as 80 per cent of suicide attempts are under the influence of alcohol.
Four out of every five convicts in the U.S. prison system got there with the help of alcohol and/or other drugs according to a report by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.
A landmark 2002 study by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse found that among federal inmates, 23 per cent reported committing their most serious offence for the specific purpose of obtaining alcohol and/or illicit drugs. Inmates who were dependent on alcohol and/or drugs had committed the most crimes.
More than half (54 per cent) of offenders entering federal custody reported having been under the influence of at least one psychoactive substance (either alcohol or drugs) when they committed the most serious crime on their current sentence. Thirty-eight per cent of federal inmates committed their most serious crime at least partly under the influence of alcohol.
Similarly high proportions of provincial inmates reported being under the influence of alcohol or drugs when they committed their most serious crime. Males in both federal and provincial prisons were more likely to be under the influence of alcohol than drugs. Alcohol was indicated much more often than illicit drugs at the time of arrest - 33 per cent of arrestees were considered under the influence of alcohol only, compared with nine per cent under the influence of illicit drugs only.
Alcohol intoxication also predominated in the various violent crimes committed by the federal inmates - 39 per cent of assaults, 34 per cent of homicides and 30 per cent of attempted murders. Approximately one half (49 per cent) of violent crimes were attributed to alcohol and/or illicit drugs (five per cent drugs only, 28 per cent alcohol only and 16 per cent drugs and alcohol combined).
A study on the social cost of alcohol abuse by the National Institute for Alcohol and Drug Studies, Norway and Uppsala University, Sweden, noted that "The most representative U.S. studies place the proportion of homicides prior to which the offender had been drinking at around 55-60 per cent. The corresponding share of drinking victims is also relatively high, about 45-50 per cent. The percentage figure for the share of homicides in which either the offender or the victim (or both) had been drinking is about 65 per cent." The figures for assault are even worse, with 65-80 per cent of offenders found to have been drinking.
The study also found that approximately 50 per cent of robberies, rapes, burglary, larceny, auto theft and forgery are committed under the influence of alcohol. Arsonists show the highest proportion of pre-crime drinking.
The authors conclude, "It would thus seem that alcohol increases the incidence of criminal behaviour in society. The evidence of a statistical association is especially compelling with regard to criminal violence." As well, "In more ways than one, alcohol and its acute and long-term effects set the stage for interactions that have negative outcomes. This happens, for instance, in families where heavy drinking or the mere use of alcohol by one or more family member is a standing issue of contention."
If the federal government were seriously interested in crime prevention, rather than in pursuing a politically correct anti-gun agenda designed to pander to the ideology and/or ignorance of certain factions of voters, that $1 billion would have done a lot more to prevent crime, including domestic violence, had it been directed toward alcohol abuse in our society.