22 million Americans have anger issues & own a gun – study

Reuters / Shannon Stapleton
Nearly 9 percent of the adult population in the US have impulsive, anger issues, break or smash things and get into fights - and have access to at least one firearm, a new study has found.

The study was published Wednesday in the journal Behavioral Sciences and the Law, and suggests that current measures to stop people with diagnosed mental illnesses from owning firearms are nothing approaching sufficient.

The researchers from Harvard, Columbia and Duke Universities conducted 5,563 face-to-face interviews in nationwide survey looking at mental disorders that stretched back to the early 2000s.

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The authors of the study claim this is the first time that a link has been found between gun ownership and angry impulsive behavior, not necessarily a diagnosable mental illness.

“Impulsive, out of control, destructive, harmful. You and I might shout. These individuals break and smash things and get into physical fights, punch someone in the nose," lead author Jeffrey Swanson of Duke University told the Washington Post.

In 2012, 11,622 people were killed by guns in an intentional violent act and 57,077 were injured. While mass shootings like Sandy Hook and Aurora have focused lawmakers’ attention on keeping mentally ill people away from guns, the study shows that much more needs to be done to reduce the shockingly high death rates in the US from personal firearms.

The research also indicates that guns are disproportionately owned by angry people who also have a habit of keeping their guns close at hand and taking their guns with them outside the home.

Swanson said the classic angry man with a gun is married and lives in a suburban area. In an op-ed on the subject he referred to man from North Carolina who had scared his neighbors with his outbursts of rage, owned 14 guns, and shot and killed three Muslim students earlier in this year.

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Swanson believes that more attention must be given to stopping dangerous people getting hold of guns.

“We can’t broadly limit legal access to guns, so we have to focus on the dangerous people,” he said, in comments that will likely delight the pro-gun lobby.

But although someone’s behavior may be suspect there is often nothing in their medical histories that would bar them from buying a firearm.

“The traditional legal approach has been to prohibit firearms from involuntarily committed psychiatric patients. 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,” Swanson said.

Federal US law limits gun access of anyone convicted of a crime, and for people with domestic violence convictions.

Swanson and his colleagues believe the law should be extended to cover people with alcohol problems, people who have made open threats in the past and anyone with a single misdemeanor conviction.