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Alcohol Linked to Higher Risk of Gun Violence, Researchers Say

Researchers at Penn have found that the risk of being a victim of gun violence increases with higher alcohol consumption and proximity to places that sell alcohol-to-go.

Charles Branas, an Epidemiology professor in the School of Medicine and the corresponding author for the study, said he was interested in finding the risk factors that result in becoming a victim of a shooting in Philadelphia.

He said he wanted to answer the question, "What puts you at a greater risk: what you do or where you are?"

The study examined 677 shootings in Philadelphia from 2003 to 2006.

It found that light drinkers were not at an increased risk of being shot in an assault when compared to non-drinkers. Heavy drinkers, however, were 2.67 times as likely to be shot.

"Heavily consuming alcohol can greatly lower inhibitions, increase confidence and potentially release violent impulses," the study said. "Light drinkers likely retained enough clear judgment and perception to keep their risk in check."

The study also showed that being near off-premise alcohol outlets, such as take-out establishments and delis, made individuals as likely or even more likely than heavy drinkers to be the victim of gun assault.

The combination of these risk factors - heavy drinking near off-premise outlets - resulted in individuals being 9.34 times as likely to be shot.

People at on-premise outlets, such as bars and taverns, were not as likely to be involved in gun violence.

"Unlike off-premise alcohol outlets, on-premise outlets … were by comparison highly monitored, relatively safe havens, even in neighborhoods with high levels of gun violence," the study said.

Every year, 100,000 Americans are killed or injured by firearms, according to Rose Cheney, executive director of the Firearm and Injury Center at Penn, in a press release.

"Firearm injury is a significant public health problem, in the U.S. and globally," she said. "Research findings such as these allow us to intervene earlier, more comprehensively interrupt pathways toward violence and better document the impact of investments in prevention."

The results of the study can be extrapolated to apply to cities across the United States, according to Branas. He suggested that cities should reduce the density of off-premise alcohol outlets, better train servers in the outlets and police public drunkenness to reduce gun violence.

The study, titled "Alcohol Consumption, Alcohol Outlets, and the Risk of Being Assaulted With a Gun," will be published in the May issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

It was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

This story was filed by UWIRE, which offers reporting from more than 800 colleges and universities worldwide. Read more at www.uwire.com