Trump Wrong on Violence and Mental Health--It's the Guns
- Posted on December 1, 2017
By Barbara Bartlein, RN, LCSW, CSP
President Trump’s recent comments about mental health are so mistaken and damaging, it is important for mental health professions to correct his erroneous information. After the deadly church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Trump said, “I think that mental health is your problem here. This isn’t a guns situation…but this is a mental health problem at the highest level.” As a mental health professional with over 40 years of practice, he couldn’t be more wrong.
There are more gun deaths in the U.S., but not more mental health problems. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, as many as one in five US adults suffer from some sort of mental illness. These rates are similar to other countries, yet Americans are ten times more likely to die of gun violence that people in other countries.
A 2006 study in the American Journal of Psychiatry showed only about 4% of violence in America is attributable to mental illness, and most mentally ill people are never violent. In face, people with serious mental illness are far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of violent acts. Rates of violent crime victimization are 12 times higher among this population that the overall U.S. population.
The largest indicator of gun violence is the mass proliferation of guns. Economist Richard Florida took a look at gun deaths and found that mental illness didn’t correlate with more gun deaths. What he did find is that states with tighter gun control laws have fewer gun related deaths.
This was backed by other research: A 2016 review of 130 studies in 10 countries, published in Epidemiologic Reviews, found that new legal restrictions on owning and purchasing guns tended to be followed by a drop in gun violence. A great example of this is what happened in Australia.
The Australian government set up a gun buyback program after a mass shooting that reduced the number of firearms in the country by about one-fifth. The Australian study found that buying back 3,500 guns per 100,000 people correlated with up to a 50% drop in firearm homicides, and a 74% drop in gun suicides.
This is significant for the U.S. as the majority of gun deaths in the country are suicides.
For more information on studies related to gun violence, please visit: