On August 18 NBC News published an edited version of a News 21 report on the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) which said, “it’s nearly impossible to predict which individuals will commit gun violence, let alone find them through NICS.”
The News 21 report looks at the viability of using background checks to find mentally ill persons prone to violence – a process which must begin with medical/psychiatric professionals being able to figure out which mentally ill persons are prone to violence and then reporting those persons.
According to Duke University medical sociologist Jeffrey Swanson, searching out those prone to violence is like searching for “a needle in a haystack.”
Said Swanson, “The ability of mental health professionals to pick out who’s going to be violent, it’s not better than a coin toss.”
The report also cites Linda Stalters, president of Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America, who explains that “the vast majority of people with mental illness have never committed a violent crime.” She said, “The people who are generally going to be using guns are not the people who have a psychiatric diagnosis. We just hear about those.”
The points made by Swanson and Stalters are bolstered by an overview of an Everytown for Gun Safety study also included in the report. In the study, “110 incidents” involving “shooters” were examined, and in only 12 of the incidents the “shooters” had demonstrated some degree of mental illness, but without being “mentally adjudicated or involuntarily committed for treatment.”
This comes back to another point made by Stalters: “the core issue is about the lack of treatment, not access to guns.”
Follow AWR Hawkins on Twitter @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.