As researchers advance their understanding of the causes of gun violence in the US and the contexts in which it occurs, one area under recent consideration is the relationship between firearm use and alcohol misuse. A recent report by the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions found that one in three individuals who committed a homicide with a firearm were heavily drinking at the time of the offense. Additionally, 30% of firearm homicide victims were under the influence of alcohol at the time of their death, as were 25% of gun suicide victims. On this episode of Policy Outsider, Senator Cory McCray of Maryland’s 45th Legislative District, which covers parts of east and northeast Baltimore, joins Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium Executive Director Jaclyn Schildkraut to discuss the proactive policy action he’s taken to address the dangerous intersection of alcohol misuse and gun violence in his district.


  • Honorable Cory McCray, Maryland State Senator, District 45
  • Jaclyn Schildkraut, Executive Director, Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium

Learn More

View our webinar with researchers from the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions, “Understanding the Intersection between Alcohol & Gun Violence.”

  • Transcript

    Transcript was generated using AI software and may contain errors.

    Joel Tirado  00:01

    Welcome to Policy Outsider presented by the Rockefeller Institute of Government. I’m Joel Tirado. As researchers advance their understanding of the causes of gun violence in the US and the contexts in which it occurs, one area under recent consideration is the relationship between firearm use and alcohol misuse. A recent report by the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions found that one in three individuals who committed a homicide with a firearm were heavily drinking at the time of the offense. Additionally, 30% of firearm homicide victims were under the influence of alcohol at the time of their death, as were 25% of gun suicide victims. On today’s show, Senator Cory McCray of Maryland’s 45th Legislative District, which covers parts of east and northeast Baltimore, joins Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium Executive Director Jaclyn Schildkraut to discuss the proactive policy action he’s taken to address the dangerous intersection of alcohol misuse and gun violence in his district. That conversation is up next.

    Jaclyn Schildkraut  01:22

    Senator McCray, thank you so much for joining us.

    Cory McCray  01:24

    First, I’m blessed. I’m humbled. I’m honored to be able to share this moment with you. Likewise,

    Jaclyn Schildkraut  01:29

    you know, as we dive into this complex issue, can you tell our listeners a little bit more about why this is so important to you?

    Cory McCray  01:36

    When I think about the city of Baltimore, the city in which I’m born and raised and raised my family, and I got to Kennedy, Reagan, CJM Bryson with my wife Demetria. I think about like, what does the future of Baltimore look like? And I know that whenever anybody moves into a neighborhood, they’re thinking about education, but they’re also thinking about public safety. And they’ve taken about that from a standpoint of their most important investment, the best thing that they have going on, which is their children. And when I looked at the liquor establishments in my district, jaggy, I thought about it and I said, all my life all my life, they’ve been open for 20 hours a day. So that 6am to 2am. And nobody has ever question. Why did this take place? So we began to normalize something that’s a normal because the other adjacent jurisdictions, so the counties in suburbs and rural jurisdictions did not have 20 hour operations for their liquor establishments. And then when you think about the concentration, so I have 23 liquor stores and a one mile radius. So then what happens is we began to the neighborhood actually reached out. So folks in the Fort Worthington community, reached out to my office and was concerned about two shootings that had taken place at the intersection of Milton and Bedell and I involved and engaged the Eastern police district. And when we came about, that’s when the question started to arise. Well help us understand how can we push them to be better partners within our neighborhood. And then we said, well, we need data. Let’s map out where our majority of the homicides and non fatal shootings taking place. And when we mapped it out, we came up with a boundary of North Avenue down to mccoughtry street down to Central Avenue over to Lucerne. That’s where the 23 liquor stores that came in play. When we looked at it, at Carolina, Preston we had had 19 fatal shootings. So each and every one of these establishments had at least one fatal shooting within a three year period. And that’s when we began to look at the hours the operation of when is it taking place? And the question was like, why is this? Why is the liquor establishment open up at 1am? In the morning? Why is it open up at 6am in the morning, and we’ve realized that we have control over that as the state of Maryland, this was not a local issue, we were able to do something about that on a state level. And that’s when we said and it was tough for the liquor establishments, but we said hey, we’re going to cut out these this geographic boundary, we’re going to make sure that it’s constitutional what we’re doing, but we’re gonna change the trajectory of our neighborhoods by making this decision for the long haul for our young scholars that walk. Can I give you one more pressing thing that when you think about this, psychologically, the mental that we put ourselves in is imagine a young scholar. So imagine this young scholar I have daughter so let’s say imagine this young scholars 12 or 13 years of age, and this young style of walks to school every day in her school is within a half a mile of her own. She would walk past four liquor establishments if she lived that bond and out of a street and went to St. Claire lane. The image that we’re given the mentor that we’re giving our young scholars is that we began to prioritize liquor. Because that school bell doesn’t ring until Oh 830, but our liquor stores will open up at 6am. That’s the wrong message to be sending. It’s not the safest thing. And we’ve been able to benefit from it from taking this level of action in 2019.

    Jaclyn Schildkraut  05:12

    Yeah, definitely cutting edge. Actually, you know, one thing that kind of sticks out to me is you talk a lot about the geographic location of these alcohol stores, relative to the gun violence that’s happening. But what else are you seeing in terms of the role that they’re playing in the shootings, or more specifically, the role alcohol has been playing in these shootings.

    Cory McCray  05:29

    So one of the things that you realize is that these are areas where you have concentration of poverty. So that’s one of the things that we we have to lift up because it’s no way to 23 Liquor outlets should be at one and a one mile radius. But what you saw is, is that after nine o’clock, 10, o’clock, 11 o’clock, midnight, 1am 2am, and possibly 3am, to because even when the establishment shuts down, it doesn’t mean that everyone leaves. So when you have these hours operation, you have a mix of people drinking, you have a mix of people congregating and there’s only one thing that can happen out of that situation is that if someone’s drinking, someone’s congregating there as possible, a high percentage of argument that’s taking place in Denver, resorting to gun violence is what we saw in a data show that

    Jaclyn Schildkraut  06:22

    thank you for clarifying that. You know, I’d like to talk a little bit more about the what you guys have done. You talked about engaging the liquor store owners and changing hours, but what was sort of your mindset going into it? What’s the new guidance that you guys are all operating within? And, you know, I want to set the scene for others who may be looking to take similar action in their own communities? Nope,

    Cory McCray  06:43

    is Beth is definitely that’s a great question. And I’m going to put it in as layman’s terms, so that if I was trying to do it, that I knew I could be able to grab it while you were putting it. So the first thing that you do is you want to make sure that you engage in conversation with the people that will be impacted, wherever they like it or don’t like it, you want to make sure that you engage with them. So the community is our main stakeholders as elected officials. So we engaged all of the jurisdictions within all of the communities within that one mile radius. So we had Nubra ways. We had Oliver, we had Milton in Monforte. So a number of the community associations came in to testify on something like this. The next thing, we only have one police district, even though we have non police districts in the city of Baltimore, the Eastern District is the main overlay for this specific geographic boundary. So we engage them, then you want to engage the store owners because you want to say, hey, having a license is a privilege, we don’t have to give you a liquor license, like this is a privilege, from that standpoint, also engaging them to say, hey, this has taken place in front of your establishment. We brought it up a number of times with the level of concerns that we had about reaching out to the police department or things of that nature, like these are the steps that we should take take place and they aren’t taking place. It’s almost like we’re condoning this level of behavior and putting monetizing or putting money in front of human lives. I should say, from that standpoint, once we were able to do that we then got a bill drafted. So we had conceptual that we wanted to reduce the hours, we engage the agency. So the Baltimore City Liquor Board of Commissioners is the ones whose has the enforcement standpoint, we engage them, we then engage the bill draft and Department of legislative services to draft a bill. Once we had the bill drafted, we were able to take it to our neighbors explain exactly what it was. But more importantly, we were able to get an attorney general’s opinion to make sure that what we were doing was even constitutional. And they said as long as we weren’t isolating one establishment, then yes, it is constitutional, because you’re considering the public safety ramifications and trying to address those issues from that standpoint. So we had 23, not one. Then after we got past that we had to then have the hearings before our respective committees and went before II at the time in the Senate and then went before economic matters from that standpoint, and it had to crossover in both chambers get signed by the governor. But the most important thing is not about passing bills. It’s about the implementation. So once we got to the implementation portion of it, we were then the agency was able to reach out to each and every one of the 23 establishments that were impacted. They gave them notification to say, hey, here’s your new hours of operation. Here’s what takes place if you didn’t, and unfortunately we had three establishments that did not want to follow the guidelines that were set before them, which is then challenged. They wanted to get into where they were fined. They were brought before the Board of Commissioners and then they can take it to court to appeal the decision that was there. The Court upheld the decision by the liquor board. I say yes, this is constitutional. And I’ll tell you ever since then, all of the business owners have come to create this new normal. So now we recognize that this isn’t something that we have in our Jason jurisdictions. And it’s not something that we’re going to accept in our respective jurisdiction. And the new normal was created, it’s a lot better when you drive through those respective neighborhoods, when you walk through those respective neighborhoods. We’ve seen the crime, especially violent crime decrease at very rapid rates, because of the action that we take.

    Jaclyn Schildkraut  10:33

    Can you talk a little bit more about that decrease? What are we talking about in terms of that job.

    Cory McCray  10:40

    So when we looked at the decrease, from that piece of it the first month, the first month resulted in about a 23% decrease in violent crime. It then went from July 1, and went to a 51% drop in homicides, a 40%, year over year drop from that community. And the information I’m telling you all came from Dr. David Jernigan, he was the one that reached out to me, let me know that they will be conducting a study, he’s a university at Boston University School of Public Health, Jama Institute of Medicine, internal medicine, was the ones that conducted the study. And they studied from I want to say 2018 to 2022, was the information that they used as their data set to be able to come back and say, here’s the level of reduction in crime that you’ve been able to have. And here’s the timeframe in which you’ve been able to have it. So they studied it before the intro that the legislation was introduced in 2019. So he took it all the way back to 2018. And then gave us a data set of 2022. And we’re still benefiting from that. And, Jackie, I just want to say that this has been so effective that our adjacent neighborhoods that now asking for this to happen within their neighborhoods, remember that this was this one mile radius, but we’re free district and we picked up two communities. So in this legislative session, we actually expanded that boundary with Senate Bill 45, to include communities like the mccoughtry Park community and the care community and to the geographic boundary that currently exists, and they will go into July 1, or should it go into action?

    Jaclyn Schildkraut  12:28

    That’s incredible. I mean, obviously, any one crime that we can prevent is obviously one, we want to get off the books and the people we want to keep in our communities. But you know, it sounds like you’re somebody that’s very actively engaged within your community. And so I’d love to hear a little bit and I’m sure listeners, what is well, what’s the public support been like? Obviously, we know how the business owners are feeling. But what about your constituents who are patrons of these businesses?

    Cory McCray  12:51

    You know, it was a little bit tough, I caught a lot of backlash, like the first within that first year of implementation. Some folks that were business owners felt like I may have been picking on them at that moment, but I tell you, we were able to the normal had changed so so like just recognizing and making the argument of the young scaliness, walking to school, and how we’re what we’re prioritizing as what is important, in reference to the public safety issues. And that’s happening, we can’t sit idle and do nothing, we have to take proactive solutions put forward from that standpoint. So I want to say within like the first couple of months, that first year, it was tough, but everybody has been able to see the benefits, the store owners, the constituents, and it’s something that we now live with, and we have been living with since 2020, when they went into implementation.

    Jaclyn Schildkraut  13:49

    You know, thinking about, you know, obviously, with every good implementation comes the challenges of that implementation. And so I’m wondering, you know, obviously, besides just sort of the pushback or kind of having to get people to change their mindset, what’s an Are there any other challenges that you were faced with? And how did you work to overcome those?

    Cory McCray  14:05

    I always do, I’m always trying my best to be mindful of small businesses, so that recognizing that there were business owners that was impacted, but at the end of the day, we make policy for the greater good. And unfortunately, in the city of Baltimore, we were reaching multiple years where we were having over 300 homicides. And that’s just unacceptable. We’re on a trajectory right now to decline to maybe less than 200. And like you said, one loss of life is too many. But at the end of the day, when you’re having that level of reduction in violent crime, this is very important. And I think that this was definitely a big part of that solution.

    Jaclyn Schildkraut  14:47

    You mentioned one of your neighboring communities is also looking to adopt it or they’re going to be adopting it here. How do you envision the scaling up of this to possibly being statewide in the future?

    Cory McCray  14:57

    You know what, so when I when I think of Oh, the 45th Legislative District and it expanded with redistricting. And so mccoughtry and care pulled into it. But I also think about like Miss Jones, Miss Jones reaching out to the office and saying, hey, the 600 block of Glover Street is just so challenging at this moment, and we want to do the same thing. And it was not a hard conversation, the thing that I always think about is engaging the people in the conversation, I do not want anyone to think that I have taken a unilateral decision to make this happen. This was the community putting forward their voice, amplifying their voice and finding strength in their voice to make such happen. It is my hope that maybe we could take a city wide, maybe we could take a statewide from that standpoint, but it also is going to take my colleagues to have a level of interest to say, Hey, I saw what happened in the 45th Legislative District, very viable solution, having successes that’s necessary for us to justify why this decision was to be made, but ultimately, it would land with them.

    Jaclyn Schildkraut  16:03

    So one thing that stands out to me, as you mentioned, that is obviously this relationship, or this intersection, if you will, of alcohol misuse and gun violence is not unique to the 45th. District. And as we’re here in New York, and we have listeners all over the country. Why do you think more broadly that states should considering limiting access to firearms in places where alcohol was consumed?

    Cory McCray  16:23

    I think that like when you look at especially urban jurisdictions, a lot of times people will try to compare us and I always say, compares the light jurisdiction. So when you think of New York, when you think of Detroit, when you think of Chicago, when you think of Philadelphia, all urban jurisdictions that have very similar challenges as we do, I would challenge if you go to those places, wherever they probably have these unique hours that are outliers, to rural county and suburban spaces. And I will offer up to say, here’s what happened in East Baltimore. Here’s how we were able to benefit from it. Here’s how we were able to say clearly and articulate what our priorities are. And this may be something that you want to mop

    Jaclyn Schildkraut  17:07

    up think of anything better to end with and you know, leaving on a high note of how you guys are being so impactful in your community. Senator McCray, thank you so much for the hard work you’re doing in Baltimore and for creating that model for the rest of your state and our country to look at. As we see more and more that, you know, this intersection of alcohol misuse and gun violence is so deadly. You know, we want to do everything that we can and it sounds like you guys are really paving the way for things we should be considering. So thank you so much for your time and for this discussion.

    Cory McCray  17:34

    I can’t tell you enough how thankful I am for your leadership for the organization’s leadership, which you all are doing and just amplifying this conversation for Bible solutions.

    Joel Tirado  17:46

    Thanks again to Maryland State Senator Cory McCray and Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium Executive Director Jaclyn Schildkraut for joining us on the show to detail a different way to approach reducing gun violence. If you liked this episode, please rate, subscribe, and share. It will help others find the podcast and help us deliver the latest in public policy research. All of our episodes are available for free wherever you stream your podcasts and transcripts are available on our website. I’m Joel Tirado; until next time.

    Joel Tirado  18:27

    Policy Outsider is presented by the Rockefeller Institute of Government, the public policy research arm of the State University of New York. The Institute conducts cutting edge nonpartisan public policy research and analysis to inform lasting solutions to the challenges facing New York state and the nation. Learn more at or by following RockefellerInst. That’s i n s t on social media. Have a question, comment, or idea? Email us at [email protected].

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