ALCOHOL ABUSE Federal law prohibits the purchase and possession of guns by anyone who is “an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance.” But the statute ignores alcohol abuse. That is also a mistake. The evidence linking alcohol abuse and gun-related violence is compelling. One study found that subjects who had ever been in trouble at work for drinking or were ever hospitalized for alcohol abuse were at increased risk of committing homicide and suicide.

Other studies also suggest that alcohol abuse is a factor in the association between gun ownership and the criminal justice system. The difficulty in policing alcohol abuse for purposes of gun control is that there is no precise definition of abuse. Pennsylvania, however, provides a useful example. It bars gun purchases by those who have been convicted of three or more drunken driving offenses within a five-year period. That criterion identifies drinkers with demonstrated tendencies toward recklessness and lawbreaking.