Almost one out of every 10 people in the United States has a firearm at home and has shown a propensity for impulsive angry behavior, according to an academic analysis led by a Duke University professor and published this month.
The analysis, which relied on an early 2000s in-person interviews with more than 5,000 people across the country, concludes that individuals showing impulsive angry behavior are more likely than people diagnosed with a mental illness to engage in gun violence.
"Gun violence and mental illness are complex but different public health problems that intersect only at their edges," says the analysis, published in the journal Behavioral Sciences and the Law. "Viewing them together through the lens of mass-casualty shootings can distort our perspectives of both of them."
The analysis defines impulsive angry behavior as angry outbursts, breaking and smashing objects and getting into physical fights. The study also found that almost two out of every 100 people carry firearms outside of the home and have a propensity for impulsive angry behavior. Participants of the National Comorbidity Survey Replication who owned six or more firearms were more likely than people who owned two or fewer to carry guns outside the home and have a history of impulsive, angry behavior.
"These are the kinds of people who, when they get angry, break and smash things and get into physical fights, and also have access to guns," said Jeff Swanson, professor of psychiatry at Duke University and lead author of the study.
The authors, which include scientists from Duke, Columbia and Harvard universities, argue that gun violence could be better prevented by looking at prospective buyers’ history of misdemeanor violent offenses and impaired driving convictions—rather than screening based on mental health treatment history. Under federal law, someone who has been legally determined as "mentally defective" or has been committed to a mental institution is not eligible to possess a firearm.
Paul Valone, president of the gun advocacy group Grassroots North Carolina, criticized the scientist's recommendations, arguing that disqualifying someone for gun ownership not based on felony convictions—as federal law does—would be a violation of the second amendment right to bear arms.
"People have individual freedoms," Valone said. "You can't take away their guns because some academic says they might be a problem."
CORRECTION, April 8, 2015, 10:50 a.m.: According to a new study, almost two in 100 people in the United States have shown impulsive, angry behavior and carry a firearm outside of home. An earlier version of this article reported an incorrect figure.