In Gun Debate, a Misguided Focus on Mental Illness (NY Times)

there is overwhelming epidemiological evidence that the vast majority of people with psychiatric disorders do not commit violent acts. Only about 4 percent of violence in the United States can be attributed to people with mental illness.

This does not mean that mental illness is not a risk factor for violence. It is, but the risk is actually small. Only certain serious psychiatric illnesses are linked to an increased risk of violence...

I wrote on this subject yesterday. This is a longer and more detailed look at the general tendency to blame folks with psychiatric disabilities for more than their real share of violence in the US.

Americans shoot and maim or kill at extraordinarily high levels compared to citizens of other nations. However, the percentage of population with mental illnesses is not proportionately higher.

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'Guns vs. the Mentally Ill' from USA Today

Column online and in today's edition by Pete Early:

Federal statutes already prohibit anyone who has been "adjudicated as (being) mental defective or has been committed to a mental institution" from buying a firearm. Connecticut, where the Sandy Hook shootings happened, prohibits the sale of firearms to anyone who has been found not guilty of a crime due to a "mental disease" or has been a "patient in a mental hospital within the preceding 12 months."

"Can we toughen existing laws? Of course. But the devil is in the details. Many of the police, firefighters and EMTs who responded to the 9/11 disaster in Manhattan reported feelings of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a mental illness. Many of our returning military veterans who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan have also filed claims for PTSD. Should we be afraid of them? What about the FBI agent who becomes depressed after his teenage daughter dies in a car accident? Should he not seek psychiatric counseling or take anti-depressants because it might cost him the right to own a firearm?"

"Ironically, the move on Capitol Hill has been to weaken existing laws, not tighten them. Sens. Richard Burr, R-N.C. and James Webb, D-Va., along with 10 other co-sponsors, want to give 127,000 military veterans the right to own firearms even though their psychiatric disabilities are so severe that courts have appointed others to manage
their finances..." (emphasis added)

Pete Earley is the author of CRAZY: A Father's Search Through America's Mental Health Madness.

Martha Brock