Conference Coverage

VIDEO: Research underscores murky relationship between mental illness, gun violence



– Legislation enacted in some states in the wake of mass shootings seeks to limit access to firearms for people with mental illness, but research presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association raises questions about the value of that approach.

During a workshop entitled “The ‘Crazed Gunman’ Myth: Examining Mental Illness and Firearm Violence,” researchers from the Yale University in New Haven, Conn., presented new findings that support existing data calling into question whether laws considered to be “common-sense approaches” to stopping gun violence really can reduce the likelihood of mass shootings.

The research shows that, while such legislation might help reduce suicides and domestic violence, it is unlikely to prevent mass shootings. It appears, based on the frequency and context of firearm use in more than 400 crimes that resulted in an insanity acquittal in Connecticut, for example, that individuals with mental illness are less likely than others to misuse firearms.

In this video, workshop chair Reena Kapoor, MD, also of Yale University, discusses the findings and notes that she and her colleagues seek to move past politics and ideology to focus on science that can guide policy and legislative efforts in a potentially more effective direction.

“We’ve also found that in spite of the media narrative, there has also been a slight decrease in how often [mentally ill offenders] use guns, over the years in the study,” she said. “Although the data are preliminary, it doesn’t support this idea that mentally ill people are more dangerous than ever, that they’re using guns more often in their violence; it actually says quite the opposite.”

Dr. Kapoor reported having no disclosures.

SOURCE: Kapoor R et al. APA 2018 Workshop.

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