The complicated, fraught connection between gun violence and mental health: ‘We have to be very careful how we talk about the link between the two’

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The unimaginable has become dreadfully predictable.

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On Tuesday afternoon, an 18-year-old gunman opened fire on a Texas elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, about 85 miles west of San Antonio, killing at least 18 children, three adults, and injuring others.

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It was the deadliest shooting at a grade school in America since a 20-year-old gunman killed 20 first-graders and six teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., on December 14, 2012.

Once again, lawmakers in the United States, mental-health professionals, gun-control advocates, the National Rifle Association, and people across the country are searching for answers, and debating gun-control laws—or lack thereof.

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“People with mental health issues are more likely to be victims than criminals,” said Chetan Satya, a pediatric surgeon and director of the Northwell Health Center for Gun Violence Prevention, headquartered in New Hyde Park, NY.

“We have to be very careful how we talk about the link between the two,” he said. “These public-health strategies are important when it comes to people with mental-health issues because they often involve the victims themselves.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that more than 50% of firearm-related deaths were suicide, and more than four out of every 10 were homicides. More than seven out of every 10 medically treated are due to firearm-related attacks.

According to the CDC, in 2020, there were 45,222 firearms-related deaths in the US, the equivalent of about 124 people dying from a firearm-related injury every day.

,‘Increasingly, we are seeing people who are frustrated, angry and hateful and are using firearms on a particular group.’,

—Cassandra Crifasi, deputy director of the Center for Gun Violence at Johns Hopkins

There’s a difference between a diagnosable mental-health problem and other problems, said Cassandra Crifasi, an associate professor in the department of health policy and management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

“Increasingly, we are seeing people who are frustrated, angry and hateful and are using firearms to take on a particular group, and on a group of individuals through mass violence,” she told MarketWatch. Told.

According to the CDC, linking mental health to gun violence can be stigmatized, especially given that more than 50% of people will be diagnosed with some mental illness or disorder in their lifetime.

In addition, one in five Americans will experience mental illness in a given year. Clearly, not all people with mental-health issues are committing mass shootings. But are the people who committed mass shootings in a stable mental state?

Few details are known about the Uvalde shooter’s state of mind and/or motivations, Crifasi said, “For someone who would conduct a mass shooting like today, people would agree that there is something wrong with that person.”

But she said trying to separate shooter intent and mental health distracts from the more useful actions Americans can take to prevent another suicide or homicide — and especially at a school.

Those factors include the need for a license to purchase a firearm, and right-to-carry law In some states that give people the right to carry a concealed handgun outside the home without a permit or with a permit issued by a state.

,‘I think we can all agree that a person with a serious mental-health problem should not have access to a gun.’,

– Jacqueline Campbell, a national leader in research and advocacy on domestic violence

“Gun violence is certainly a big driver of increasing homicides, including mass shootings across the country,” said Jacqueline Campbell, an academic nurse known for her research on domestic violence and violence against women.

She cites “an alarming increase in gun purchases over the past few years, driven by the pandemic, but also driven by gun manufacturer and NRA marketing and perceptions of a lack of public safety.”

People who have serious mental-health problems and/or anger-management issues, or have deep frustration with their lives or the world, or other undisclosed crises tend to come from affluent and disadvantaged communities, he said.

But prevention can also start at home.
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“I think we can all agree that a person with a serious mental-health problem should not have access to a gun. That’s where the ‘red flag’ law comes into play,” she said.

Red-flag law, also known as an extreme-risk protection order or ERPO, allows a family member or law-enforcement officer to display warning signs to temporarily confiscate a person’s firearms. Court order may be sought to do so.

Satya agrees that the latest tragedy speaks to the need for responsible gun ownership and access. “How do you improve safe storage so that those at imminent risk to themselves or others do not have access to weapons?”

enacted so far 19 states and the District of Columbia, Red flag law can play a role in preventing mass shootings, published a study It is suggested in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2019.

,‘People with mental-health issues are more likely to be victims than perpetrators.’,

— Chetan Satya, director of the Northwell Health Center for Gun Violence Prevention

The researchers conducted a preliminary analysis of the effects of California’s ERPO statute, under which ERPO is called, a gun-violence restraining order, or GVRO, that went into effect in January 2016.

He details 21 cases in which a GVRO was issued when a person “made a clear declaration of intent to conduct a mass shooting” or demonstrated behavior, and soon gained access to firearms.

“In these cases, GVRO allowed immediate intervention to reduce firearms access, in most cases due to timely reports from threatening parties and members of the public,” the researchers wrote.

As always, the authors added an important caveat to their findings. “It is impossible to know whether GVROs were not issued, and we make no claim of a causal relationship.”

Campbell said: “Texas Law They are not as strong about checking sanctions against gun ownership from people convicted of felony or domestic violence or those with protective orders. ,

Last year, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, signed a law that allowed residents of that state to carry a handgun without having previously been licensed, which effectively restricted most people over the age of 21. Allowed to carry handguns.

You must be at least 18 years of age to legally purchase a rifle in Texas, and you must be 21 years of age to legally purchase a handgun from a licensed dealer. In Uvalde, an 18-year-old gunman is suspected of killing his grandmother before she opened fire.

The National Rifle Association was not immediately available for comment.

(Meera Jagannathan contributed to this report.
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