Mental health, gun permits and modern society

Creating a database of the mentally ill to prevent them from purchasing weapons is an important tool for law enforcement. Photo: Ted Bundy

WASHINGTON-March, 30, 2013-“Sometimes the world is so much sicker than the inmates of its institutions”-Joanne Greenburg, I never Promised You a Rose Garden.”

While creating a database of the mentally ill to prevent them from purchasing weapons would not eliminate gun violence in the United States, it is an important tool for law enforcement.

SEE RELATED: Gun control and mental health

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Institute of Medicine, former president of the American Psychiatric Association(APA) and current professor at Columbia University Paul Appelbaum, collectively assign an average figure of violent crime committed by the mentally disordered at 4-5 percent. While this number is extremely low, there is no question that putting guns in the hands of the mentally ill can have disastrous consequences.

The sociopathic or psychotic who does engage in violent crime can commit unspeakable violence. The depravity, type, scope and most of all, notoriety of violent crime that is perpetrate on society from the seriously mentally ill is truly chilling.

Recounting titles assigned to crimes committed by mentally ill perpetrators creates horrific visions. The Son of Sam, Boston Strangler, Hillside Strangler, Unabomer, Manson Family, Green River Killer, Zodiac Killer, BTK Killer, D.C. Snipers, Sandy Hook, Columbine, and Virginia Tech among others evoke true terror.

Likewise, the names Gacy, Dahlmer, Manson, Hinckley, Oswald and Bundy induce fear.

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These 17 people are responsible for the violent deaths of 275 people and injuries to 42 more.

The mental illnesses responsible for most violent crime are untreated bi-polarism, schizoid personalities and major depressive disorders.

The APA estimates Estimate’s three percent of males and 1% of females have Anti-Social Personality Disorder (ASPD).  ASPD is the umbrella term to describe similar behaviors of socio and psychopathic disorders. However, 47 percent of males and 21 percent of females who are prison inmates have ASPD, suggesting a link between the disease and violent crime.  

According to Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) criminal profiler Gregg McCrary, those with ASPD can maintain “Exquisite masks of sanity” making them difficult to detect. They are so adept at hiding their illness, they can often fool mental health professionals.

The World Health Organization (WHO) predicts depression as the leading cause of disability by the year 2020. Young males are identified as creating the greatest number of violent incidents, yet depression within this group is difficult to assess because they often do not seek help from professionals.  

Unfortunately, current methods of acquiring information on mental illness may inhibit detection and prevent those needing psychological help from seeking it.

Next we explore potential ways and means of determining early diagnosis methods to compile a database without impinging on the rights and privacy of those with treatable physiological issues.

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




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