An estimated 9% of adults in the US have a history of impulsive, angry behaviour and have access to firearms, according to a study published this month in Behavioral Sciences and the Law.
The study also found that an estimated 1.5% of adults report impulsive anger and carry firearms outside their homes.
“As we try to balance constitutional rights and public safety regarding people with mental illness, the traditional legal approach has been to prohibit firearms from involuntarily-committed psychiatric patients,” said Jeffrey Swanson, Ph.D., professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke Medicine and lead author of the study.
“But now we have more evidence that current laws don’t necessarily keep firearms out of the hands of a lot of potentially dangerous individuals.”
Participants who owned six or more firearms were also far more likely than people with only one or two firearms to carry guns outside the home and to have a history of impulsive, angry behaviour.
The researchers analysed data from 5,563 face-to-face interviews conducted in the National Comorbidity Study Replication (NCS-R), a nationally representative survey of mental disorders in the US led by Harvard in the early 2000s.
The study found little overlap between participants with serious mental illnesses and those with a history of impulsive, angry behaviour and access to guns.
“Gun violence and serious mental illness are two very important but distinct public health issues that intersect only at their edges,” Swanson said.
Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.
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