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Dangerous Weapons or Dangerous People? The Temporal Associations Between Gun Violence and Mental Health

NCJ Number
Preventive Medicine Issue: 121 Dated: 2019 Pages: 1-6
Date Published
6 pages

This study examined the temporal associations between gun violence (i.e., threatening someone with a gun and gun carrying) and mental health (i.e., anxiety, depression, stress, PTSD, hostility, impulsivity, and borderline personality disorder), as well as the cross-sectional associations with gun access and gun ownership in a group of emerging adults.


Despite the public, political, and media narrative that mental health is at the root of gun violence, evidence is lacking for a causal link. In addressing this issue, the current study used waves 6 (2015) and 8 (2017) data from a longitudinal study in Texas. Participants were 663 emerging adults (61.7 percent female) including 33.6 percent self-identified Hispanics, 26.0 percent White, 27.0 percent Black, and 13.4 percent other, with an average age of 22 years. Multivariate logistic regression indicated that individuals who had gun access were 18.15 times and individuals with high hostility were 3.51 times more likely to have threatened someone with a gun, after controlling for demographic factors and prior mental health treatment. Individuals who had gun access were 4.74 times, individuals who reported gun ownership were 5.22 times, and individuals with high impulsivity were 1.91 times more likely to have carried a gun outside of their homes, after controlling for prior gun carrying, mental health treatment, and demographic factors. Counter to public beliefs, most mental health symptoms examined were not related to gun violence. Instead, access to firearms was the primary culprit. These findings have important implications for gun control policy. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2019