Title

The Association Between Beliefs About the Centrality of Mental Illness In Gun Violence and General Firearm Beliefs and Behaviors

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

7-1-2021

School

Psychology

Abstract

Objective: The tendency to blame gun violence on mental illness may limit the implementation of evidence-based gun violence prevention efforts. We examined the extent to which the belief that gun violence is a mental health problem (vs. access to firearms) is associated with views about firearms and openness to means safety.

Method: In 2 samples, U.S. firearm owners completed a survey on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. In Sample 1 (n = 201, Mage = 36.79), participants endorsed that gun violence is either a mental health problem or a gun problem. In Sample 2 (n = 308, Mage = 38.47), participants endorsed a degree to which gun violence is a mental health problem or a gun problem.

Results: In both samples, the belief that gun violence is a mental health problem was associated with less belief in an association between firearm ownership or storage and suicide risk, greater belief that individuals thwarted in an effort to use a specific method for suicide will find an alternative method (i.e., means substitution), and less openness to changing firearm storage practices to prevent suicide.

Conclusions: Firearm owners who attribute gun violence purely or predominantly to mental illness may be more likely to endorse inaccurate beliefs and unsafe behaviors with respect to firearms. Targeting this misconception is a vital goal for the field to focus on to shift how Americans think about and promote gun violence prevention. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved)

Publication Title

Psychology of Violence

Volume

11

Issue

4

First Page

364

Last Page

375

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