Gun Violence and Victimization of Strangers by Persons with a Mental Illness: Data from the Macarthur Violence Risk Assessment Study

Posted: 17 Sep 2015 Last revised: 21 Sep 2015

See all articles by Henry J. Steadman

Henry J. Steadman

Policy Research Associates, Inc.

John Monahan

University of Virginia School of Law

Debra Pinals

University of Massachusetts Medical School-Law and Psychiatry Program

Roumen Vesselinov

City University of New York, CUNY Queens College - Department of Economics

Pamela Robbins

Policy Research Associates, Inc

Date Written: September 17, 2015

Abstract

Highly publicized incidents in which people with apparent mental illnesses use guns to victimize strangers have important implications for public views of people with mental illnesses and the formation of mental health and gun policy. The study aimed to provide more data about this topic. MacArthur Violence Risk Assessment Study data were analyzed to determine the prevalence of violence by 951 patients after discharge from a psychiatric hospital, including gun violence, violence toward strangers, and gun violence toward strangers. Two percent of patients committed a violent act involving a gun, 6% committed a violent act involving a stranger, and 1% committed a violent act involving both a gun and a stranger. When public perceptions and policies regarding mental illness are shaped by highly publicized but infrequent instances of gun violence toward strangers, they are unlikely to help people with mental illnesses or to improve public safety.

Keywords: mental illness, guns, strangers, violence, victimization

Suggested Citation

Steadman, Henry J. and Monahan, John and Pinals, Debra and Vesselinov, Roumen and Robbins, Pamela, Gun Violence and Victimization of Strangers by Persons with a Mental Illness: Data from the Macarthur Violence Risk Assessment Study (September 17, 2015). Psychiatric Services, Forthcoming; Virginia Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper No. 54. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2662124

Henry J. Steadman

Policy Research Associates, Inc. ( email )

345 Delaware Avenue
Delmar, NY 12054
United States

John Monahan (Contact Author)

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States
434-924-3632 (Phone)

Debra Pinals

University of Massachusetts Medical School-Law and Psychiatry Program ( email )

55 Lake Avenue North
Worcester, MA 01655
United States

Roumen Vesselinov

City University of New York, CUNY Queens College - Department of Economics ( email )

65-30 Kissena Blvd
Flushing, NY 11367-1597
United States

Pamela Robbins

Policy Research Associates, Inc ( email )

345 Delaware Avenue
Delmar, NY 12054
United States

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