In the wake of the tragic mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, many potential causes of gun-related violence have been discussed in the US media along with recommendations for curbing it. Meanwhile, a national debate rages on as politicians – including the president – push for stronger restrictions, including bans on certain types of firearms, while opponents of gun control say these laws would restrict Second Amendment freedoms.
[caption id="attachment_21416" align="alignright" width="180"] David Brent, MD[/caption]
In an article published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP), lead author David Brent, MD, and colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and the Harvard School of Public Health examine responses that have been proposed in the national media to address the issue of gun violence, including suicide and homicide. These proposals include restriction of access to firearms; clinical intervention and screening about firearm storage and availability by mental health professionals; and improved access to mental health care to increase screening and identification of potential perpetrators of gun violence.
[pullquote align="right"]While we are committed to improving access and quality of mental health care, we felt that the emphasis on mental health care to the exclusion of stricter gun control laws could squander a true opportunity...[/pullquote]
The article, titled "Ending the Silence on Gun Violence," compares US and international data on firearm violence to show that despite a similar prevalence of mental disorders in other high-income countries, the US has higher rates of gun violence that are proportional to its high rate of gun ownership per capita. The data also show that US youth under the age of 24 are affected by firearms violence at a higher rate than other age groups.
The authors conclude that restricting access to firearms – and safe storage of firearms – has the potential to reduce firearm-related deaths by lowering the potential for accidental or impulsive gun violence.
[caption id="attachment_21421" align="alignleft" width="475"]
Source: "Ending the Silence on Gun Violence," by David A. Brent, Matthew J. Miller, Rolf Loeber, Edward P. Mulvey, Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry[/caption]
While early treatment and preventive interventions for youth at risk for mental illness and their families may have long-term potential to decrease the firearm homicide rate, the relatively low rate of homicide by individuals with mental illness suggests that short-term efforts, such as screening and emergency triage, will not significantly reduce the rate of homicide.
Dr. Brent commented: "My colleagues and I felt that we had a scientific obligation to present an overview of the overwhelming amounts of data showing a relationship between gun access and death due to firearms. While we are committed to improving access and quality of mental health care, we felt that the emphasis on mental health care to the exclusion of stricter gun control laws could squander a true opportunity to shield youth and families from the continued scourge of firearm violence."
Read the article
"Ending the Silence on Gun Violence," by David A. Brent, Matthew J. Miller, Rolf Loeber, Edward P. Mulvey and Boris Birmaher, appears in the April issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, published by Elsevier. The article is available open access. Read it or download the PDF.
The Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP) is the official publication of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (@AACAP). Its goal is to advance the science and practice of child and adolescent psychiatry by publishing original research and papers of theoretical, scientific, and clinical relevance to the field. The journal is published by Elsevier, and the Editor-in-Chief is Andrés Martin, MD, MPH.
Listen to a podcast
Editor-in-Chief Andrés Martin interviews Dr. David Brent and Dr. Matthew Miller about their article in this podcast.
[divider] [caption id="attachment_21429" align="alignleft" width="135"] Mary K. Billingsley[/caption]
Elsevier Connect Author
As the Managing Editor of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Mary K. Billingsley works closely with authors, editors, peer reviewers, and publisher and society staff to manage the journal's editorial operations. She collaborated with the authors of "Ending the Silence on Gun Violence" to write this article for Elsevier Connect. She serves on the Program Committee of the Council of Science Editors and is based in Washington, DC.