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Many Adults With Anger Issues Have Guns

Apr 08, 2015 03:04 PM EDT

During a time when physical violence is a major issue in the United States, it's unsettling to know that many adults with anger issues have guns, according to a new study.

An estimated nine percent of adults in this country have a history of impulsive, angry behavior and have access to these firearms. What's more, the researchers also found that an estimated 1.5 percent of adults report impulsive anger and carry firearms outside their homes.

"As we try to balance constitutional rights and public safety regarding people with mental illness, the traditional legal approach has been to prohibit firearms from involuntarily-committed psychiatric patients," lead author Jeffrey Swanson, from Duke University Medical Center, said in a statement. "But now we have more evidence that current laws don't necessarily keep firearms out of the hands of a lot of potentially dangerous individuals."

In 2012, for instance, more than 59,000 people were injured by the intentional use of firearms, and another 11,622 were killed in violent gun incidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Angry people with ready access to guns are typically young or middle-aged men, who at times lose their temper, smash and break things, or get into physical fights, the researchers note.

During the study, Swanson and his colleagues analyzed data from 5,563 face-to-face interviews conducted in the National Comorbidity Study Replication (NCS-R) from 2000, a nationally representative survey of mental disorders in the United States.

They found little overlap between participants with serious mental illnesses and those with a history of impulsive, angry behavior and access to guns.

"Gun violence and serious mental illness are two very important but distinct public health issues that intersect only at their edges," Swanson said.

However, they did find that anger-prone people with guns were at an increased risk for various common psychiatric conditions, such as personality disorders, alcohol abuse, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress, whereas only some people suffered from major disorders like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Aside from mental illness, when it comes to a history of simple impulsive, angry behavior, it turns out study participants who owned six or more firearms were also far more likely than people with only one or two firearms to carry guns outside the home.

This study points out a potentially dangerous combination of anger issues and gun possession in the United States, and may warrant "dangerous persons" gun removal laws in the future.

The results were recently published in Behavioral Science and the Law.

[Credit: Duke Medicine]

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