David R. Usher

Missouri House Bill 402 is a major step forward reducing gun violence, domestic violence, and other forms of serious violence. For decades, federal and state policy attempting to impact these growing problems failed because the policies were pointed in the wrong direction.

Substance abuse in the family is the leading factor and primary driver of many kinds of gun-related crimes, domestic violence, and other offenses.

Substance abuse is tightly bound to domestic violence. Three-quarters of serious domestic violence is associated with substance abuse at the time of violence (Fig 3). This statistic does not include substance abusers who were not “loaded” at the time of violence.

When gun violence takes place, our problem is not loaded guns. It is “loaded” individuals, most often raised outside marriage, who borrowed or stole a gun from somebody else.

Nearly half of gun-related violence is associated with substance abuse at the time of the offense (Table 28). We do not know how many of these offenses involve substance abusers not “loaded” at the time of the offense. Individuals raised by substance-abusing parents, and individuals raised outside intact marriages are 2.5 times more likely to commit an act of gun violence (Table 6).

Two-thirds of other violent crimes involve substance abuse at the time of the offense (Fig 5). The latest National Crime Victimization Surveys reports find that drugs and alcohol are a leading factor in many kinds of criminal offenses. Nearly three-fourths of federal prisoners admitted using drugs in 2007 – up from 60% in 1990 (Table 3). Substance abuse rates for female offenders are even higher (Table 6). Few offenders have ever had substance abuse treatment, and participation in recovery programs has declined since 1991.


David R. Usher

David R. Usher is President of the Center for Marriage Policy