While it’s important to keep firearms out of the hands of seriously mentally ill individuals, gun violence is not a mental health issue, health experts say. Contrary to the image reinforced by media reports of mass shootings,“various epidemiologic studies over the past two decades show that the vast majority of people with severe mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or severe depression, are never violent toward others,” writes CNN’s Emanuella Grinberg.
Mental illness has far more impact on gun deaths resulting from suicide. In 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicides made up 61% of all firearm fatalities in the United States—or 21,384 of 33,599 such deaths.
Jeffrey Swanson, a professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University, specializes in gun violence and mental illness. He and other experts say that to make background checks work, other indicators of risk should be included, such as pending charges or convictions for violent assault, domestic violence restraining orders, or multiple DUIs.