Gun control and mental health

Inside the impact of Photo: Gun control protestors

WASHINGTON, March 28, 2013 - Expecting a carjacker, rapist or a drug pusher to care that his possession or use of a handgun is unlawful is like expecting a terrorist to care his car bomb is taking up two spaces.”-Joseph T. Chew

Recent efforts to restrict those with mental health issues from owning guns may marginally improve public safety, but it is not a panacea. It fails to address the root causes of illegal handguns and drugs, which are wreaking havoc on society.

Mental health and gun ownership became front and center after the terrible massacre in Sandy Hook.

However, a close look at statistics suggests the prevalence of gun ownership among the mentally ill is low, and gun use stemming from mental illness is even lower.

In fact, the mentally ill are more likely to be victims of crime than perpetrators.

Columbia University psychiatrist Paul Appelbaum tells us that about four percent of violent crime in America involves the mentally ill.

Appelbaum posits that overall crime and crime involving weapons remain the domain of drug abuse and those with personal history of violence, especially in low income urban areas, rather than the mentally ill.

The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology (JCLC) reports gun related violence is primarily the province of young and juvenile males between the ages of 15 to 25. By 2012 Census Bureau stats, that translates to roughly 22.6 million people.

The mental disorders most associated with gun related violence against others are schizophrenia, Anti-Social Personality Disorder (ASPD), and untreated Bipolar Disorder (BPD.   

Mental health statistics indicate that in the United States, there are approximately 1,300,000 individuals who fall into those categories. 

In other words, the four percent of the population that suffers from one of the psychological disorders most likely to be involved in violent gun assaults is not overly significant.

Compare that number to Department of Justice statistics showing 2.3 million Americans are currently incarcerated, and another 5 million are on parole or probation. Approximately 2,221,000 of those convicted each year committed violent crimes and approximately 1,121,000 used guns. Approximately 67% of homicides involve guns, but less than one percent involve “assault weapons.”  Roughly .5 million inmates, or 25%, are jailed for drug crimes, and another 1 million are on parole or probation for drug-related crimes.

In other words, working to keep weapons out of the hands of the mentally ill, and limiting assault weapons, fails to address the root of the problems causing violence in America: illegal handguns, drug abuse and crimes to support drug abuse.

America is not overrun with the mentally ill carrying assault rifles. America, however, is still burdened with illicit drugs and illegal handguns.

The smallest number and percentage of those committing violent crimes are garnering the greatest amount of attention.

Even if authorities completely eliminate gun ownership by the mentally ill or potentially mentally ill, it will not eradicate drug violence in our society. Solving the problem is simply not that easy.

 

Paul Mountjoy is a Virginia based writer and a member of the American Psychological Association and Association for Psychological Science

 

 

 

 


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