Indexed on: 02 Jun '17Published on: 02 Jun '17Published in: Psychiatric services (Washington, D.C.)
This study presents data on the relative contribution to gun violence by people with a history of inpatient psychiatric treatment and on federal efforts to deter presumptively dangerous persons from obtaining firearms, information useful for analyzing the potential public health benefits of gun policies targeting people with serious mental illness. The study also estimates the reduction in gun violence victims that would be expected if individuals with a previous psychiatric hospitalization were prohibited from purchasing firearms.Data from 838 violent gun offenders from a nationally representative sample of state prison inmates were analyzed. Those with and without a history of psychiatric hospitalization were compared on a range of offense characteristics, including relationship to the victim, number of victims, location of the offense, and source of firearms.Inmates with a history of hospitalization constituted 12% of all violent gun offenders and accounted for 13% of the sample's victims. They were less likely than those without a previous hospitalization to victimize strangers (odds ratio=.52) and were no more likely to commit gun violence in public or to have multiple victims. Among those with previous hospitalizations, 78% obtained guns from sources not subject to federal background checks. Of the total 1,041 victims of gun violence, only 3% were victimized by participants with a history of hospitalization who obtained guns from currently regulated sources.Prohibiting all individuals with a history of psychiatric hospitalization from purchasing firearms, absent expanded background checks, was estimated to reduce the number of gun violence victims by only 3%.