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Four factors that predict gun violence—substance use is one of them

December 12, 2014
by Julie Miller, Editor in Chief
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According to new research from Vanderbilt University, mental health conditions are far less likely to be predictors of gun violence than:

  • Drug and alcohol use
  • History of violence
  • Access to firearms
  • Personal relationship stress

In the study, authors say that today’s common assumptions about gun violence and mass shootings are wrong, including the belief that:

  • Mental illness causes gun violence
  • Psychiatric diagnosis can predict gun crime before it happens
  • U.S. mass-shootings “prove” that Americans should fear mentally ill loners
  • Because of the complex psychiatric histories of mass-shooters, gun control “won’t prevent” mass shootings

They state in the report that all four beliefs are understandable—though incorrect—assumptions reinforced in the wake of tragedies such as Sandy Hook Elementary two years ago, and other well-known instances of gun violence. In addition, authors say  that the focus on mental illness after such “statistically rare, mass shootings” misdirects the conversation. Rather, the focus should be on everyday gun violence.

Those with mental illness are as much as 120 percent more likely than the average person to be victims of violent crimes than perpetrators of it.

The paper, “Mental Illness, Mass Shootings and the Politics of American Firearms,” will publish in the February issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

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