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An Opposing Analysis: Mental Health & Guns

In show #10, we reference the article that interviews the professor from Duke University. It’s a great article:

There's a vastly different perspective of his opinion than what one might come away with from listening to the show.
- In the show, it didn’t seem like professor felt there was much to gain from tightening gun control as results were inconclusive or had “minimal change”
- In the article, the Duke guy is totally for gun control

From the article:

“Only 23 percent had a documented psychiatric history of any kind ― which means 3 out of 4 did not.”

Implies that mental health issues are undocumented in violent people 75% of the time. THAT’S A PROBLEM.

“If we were able to magically cure schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression, that would be wonderful, but overall violence would go down by only about 4 percent.”


Interesting perspective. Personally, I’m for improving something through iteration, even if the gain is only 4% - there are plenty of other industries like this as well. Because improvements through little percentages add up to big ones over time.

“Mayors Against Illegal Guns put out this report which found that, as of 2014, 12 states have still reported fewer than 100 mental health records to the national background check system.”


Okay, THAT’S CLEARLY A PROBLEM.

“From the Connecticut study: After the period when the gun provisions were enforced, the difference went away ― a 53 percent drop in their likelihood of committing a violent crime.”


That’s the “minimal change” he was referring to. Uh, well, 53% drop sounds pretty substantial!

“The people who were [actually disqualified from buying guns] were only 7 percent of the study population of people with serious mental illness… It's like if you had a vaccine that was going to work against a particular public health epidemic, but only 7 percent of the people got the vaccine. It might work great for them, but it's not going to affect the epidemic.”

Okay, THAT’S CLEARLY A PROBLEM.

“Even though the large majority of people with mental illnesses are never violent, there may be times in the course of illness and treatment when we do know that risk is elevated. One of those times is the period surrounding involuntary hospitalization. We think that if there are indicators of risk, that should be a time when firearms are removed ― at least temporarily ― with an opportunity for restoration of gun rights when the person no longer poses a public safety risk.”


AND

“There are lots of states when people are involuntarily detained for a 72-hour hold, never have a commitment hearing, and are not prohibited from firearms. People in that time frame, if guns were temporarily removed from them, that might have a big impact, particularly on suicide.”


AND

Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law, a "gun violence restraining order.” With a judge's order, law enforcement would be allowed to temporarily take away someone's guns (starts 1/1/2016). There are times when a family member, or people who know someone, can be legitimately concerned that person poses a threat. They might not have committed a crime. They might not even be having a mental health crisis. But if there were a way for family members to get law enforcement involved, that might actually save some lives. In the Santa Barbara shooting, for example, the police were called. His family was concerned for him. But he didn't meet the criteria to be involuntarily detained.”


Right there is a SOLUTION that entails TAKING AWAY GUNS (and apparently it’s happening in California). This is the kind of stuff I’ve been talking about.

“Connecticut, Indiana and Texas already have a dangerous person gun seizure law. With the gun violence restraining order idea, a judge would make that decision. There has to be evidence there. There is a constitutional right at stake.”


The liberty factor!

“We did a study some years ago, looking at [violence risk] among people with serious mental illness. The three risk factors we found were most important: first, a history of violent victimization early in life, second, substance abuse, and the third is exposure to violence in the environment around you. People who had none of those risk factors ― even with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia ― had very low rates of violent behavior.”


Interesting take on evaluating behavioral risk factors as it relates to those with mental health issues.

“If someone has a history of any kind of violent or assaultive behavior, that's actually a better predictor of future violence than having a mental health diagnosis. If someone has a conviction for a violent misdemeanor, we think there's evidence, they ought to be prohibited [from owning guns.] Things like a history of two DUI or DWI convictions, being subject to a temporary domestic violence restraining order, or convicted of two or more misdemeanor crimes involving a controlled substance in a five-year period.”

That’s an interesting suggestion for GUN CONTROL.

“Most of our peer high-income countries can take a different approach. They can say, it's just too dangerous for someone to have a personal handgun for their own protection. They broadly limit legal access to guns. That's why they have lower homicide rates. What we try to do is keep the guns out of the hands of dangerous people, and that's hard, because it's hard to predict, and we have almost more guns than people.”


He’s clear by saying the US is a different beast, but he’s also declaring that homicide rates are lower in countries with tighter gun control.

“Katherine Newman's book Rampage, which looks at school shootings, identifies five common factors…. And the fifth factor is the availability of the weapons.”

Guns don’t kill people. People do. Fine, but that’s not where it ends. Logic dictates that people kill more people more quickly with guns. That’s why I personally cannot stand the saying that I mention at the beginning of this statement. In the time it takes for someone to kill someone with a knife or machete (3-5 minutes), everyone else escapes. I’ve seen the videos from 3rd world countries.

“If you were to back out all the risk associated with mental illness that's contributing to the 300,000 people killed by gunshot wounds in the last ten years, you could probably reduce deaths by about 100,000 people.


Pretty substantial reduction (33%).

“I don't think we're ever going to live in a world where we're not going to have troubled, confused, isolated young men. But we shouldn't live in a world where men like that have very easy access to semi-automatic handguns.”

Hmmm.

“We need to do something about limiting access to the guns people already have when they are inclined to harm others or themselves.”

Bingo.

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