According to a recent study conducted in the U.S., almost 1 in 10 adults who own a gun also have trouble with their anger management.
It’s not the kind of situation that makes you think of personality disorders of other mental illnesses – it’s the tendency to getting into physical fights, worrying impulsivity, anger episodes, and history of breaking things blinded by wrath that turns them into a danger to the public.
What’s even more concerning is the fact that only three states have adopted laws that offer defensive grounds to law enforcement into taking away these guns away from such individuals.
This study has its origins way back into the 2000s, when researchers gathered data from nearly 6,000 participants. They investigated only people who have guns permits outside the requirements of their job, trying to establish the relation between mental health – anger issues – and firearm carrying.
Lead author, Jeffrey Swanson, professor in behavioral sciences and psychiatry at Duke Medicine, began this study with the sole purpose of raising awareness to the fact that mental illness is only a very small slice of the issues of overall gun violence.
He explained that most law offenders do not suffer from serious mental disorders; at the same time, an overwhelming majority of people who do have a mental disorder do not express it in violent ways.
Anger issues and gun ownership
In the U.S., an astonishing number of 300,000 people have died in the last 10 years in incidents involving firearms. According to a recent report of Violence Policy Center, statistics showed that in 2013, deaths caused by firearms exceeded in 17 states the number of car accident deaths.
The problem appears when groups like the National Rifle Association, who advocate pro firearms, use the mental illness plead as convenient scapegoats for violence. It is true that most of the incidents we hear about on the news – where mass shootings are involved, for instance – usually involve a case of mental disturbance. But we should not forget that these cases are the exceptions.
Swanson explained that the public usually prefers attributing horrifying cases they cannot comprehend to deeply disturbed and irrational people, because they won’t admit the world is a terrifying place even without mental illnesses being involved.
However, although that is the case in some situations, it shouldn’t be generalized, because on the other side awaits the potential discrimination against people with mental illness, who are then treated unfairly. People then are more susceptible to sign and support policies that deprive them of their civil rights.
During his previous research, Swanson proved that putting people with mental illness away would only curb the violent crimes with 4 percent. So, in his newer study, he focused on people with a history of impulsive and angry behavior.
Beth McGinty, who was also involved in the study, a researcher at the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, said that violent anger is on a different spectrum than schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, which are considered serious mental disorders.
Impulsive anger represents repeated and frequent incidents of violent behavior that can spark rather suddenly and often without serious cause; they often lead to aggressive episodes with violent consequences that were not premeditated.
Frequent connections could be found between the respondents that reported owning a firearm and tantrums, loss of temper, and breaking or smashing things due to extreme anger. Upon further inquiry, the researchers discovered that only 8 percent of said respondents have had a history of hospitalization over a mental health condition.
Finding the connection – and proposing a solution
David Hemenway, head of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, commented on the study’s results, saying that the U.S. laws allow too many troubled people such an easy access to firearms. The impossibility of managing one’s anger combined with owning a gun creates most tragic scenarios.
Researchers have suggested a form of restrictions, but the struggle of finding the right way to do that is real. In our “politically correct” society, finding proper ways proves to be rather difficult.
One suggestion that Swanson proposed in his study is to focus on individuals who already have a verifiable medical history that shows they are prone to violence. An increasing number of homicides happening in the U.S. are the result of domestic arguments, and the presence of a gun in the house is sometimes the key factor that turns the situation into a tragedy.
Combining two simple factors usually results into gun violence: guns and dangerous people. U.S. is known for loose laws about limitation of gun ownership, so the solution should focus more on the other factor: dangerous people.
But that’s complicated still. Even with the vague criteria for limiting gun ownership to specific individuals, three states have managed to address the issue – California, Connecticut and Indiana are all doing something on the matter; whether it’s allowing preemptive seizure of firearms from dangerous individuals, or adopting a restraining order on gun violence, measures are being instated to limit the anger caused gun incidents.
Image Source: Fly Fish Nevada
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