The United States has substantially higher levels of firearm violence than most other developed countries. Firearm violence is a significant and preventable public health crisis. Mental illness is a weak risk factor for violence despite popular misconceptions reflected in the media and policy. That said, mental health professionals play a critical role in assessing their patients for violence risk, counseling about firearm safety, and guiding the creation of rational and evidence-based public policy that can be effective in mitigating violence risk without unnecessarily stigmatizing people with mental illness. This article summarizes existing evidence about the interplay among mental illness, violence, and firearms, with particular attention paid to the role of active symptoms, addiction, victimization, and psychosocial risk factors. The social and legal context of firearm ownership is discussed as a preface to exploring practical, evidence-driven, and behaviorally informed policy recommendations for mitigating firearm violence risk.


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