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Dangerousness, Not Diagnosis:

A New Focus on Mental Health in Gun Safety Laws

The current national dialogue about mass shootings and gun control has placed a new focus on the mental health of individuals who commit these atrocities.  This focus builds on the stigma attached to mental illness, leading people to avoid treatment and diagnosis for fear of being labeled a public threat. Not only is it stigmatizing to suggest that mental illness leads to violence, it is also false: the leading common behavior among individuals who commit these acts is not mental illness, but rather a repeated trend of previous violent behavior. 

Shifting the dialogue to a new standard, "Dangerousness, Not Diagnosis" may help reduce the stigma of diagnosis and also allow this important component in identifying violent behavior be utilized effectively in the gun control efforts enacted by our legislature.

For more on this discussion, read Preventing Mass Shooting via Gun Violence Restraining Orders Based on 'Dangerousness Not Diagnosis" by Harvey Rosenthal, NYAPRS E-News:

A 2015 Atlantic article entitled "Restraining Orders – But for Guns" remarked on how quickly the national conversation after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shootings turned toward mental health. 

They found that that response, however, didn't seem right to researcher Shannon Frattaroli and others in the gun violence prevention community. She told the Atlantic that a better predictor of future violent behavior is a past history of violent behavior. 
'It's dangerousness, not diagnosis,' Frattaroli said, and family members are in the best position to identify warning signs."
To examine one promising strategy to get ahead of some mass shootings, Frattaroli et al presented a paper in 2015, entitled ""Gun Violence Restraining Orders: Alternative or Adjunct to Mental Health-Based Restrictions on Firearms." 
The paper advocated for the broader use of gun violence restraining orders (GVROs) as both an alternative to mental health diagnoses and an adjunct to other risk factor-based prohibitions on gun purchase and possession.
The Gun Violence Restraining Order (GVRO) "offers families and loved ones, household members, and law enforcement a judicial pathway for temporarily removing firearms and prohibiting future gun purchases for the duration of the order. Initial restraining orders will last up to 21 days, but can be extended to one year.
Here are some excerpts from the Frattaroli article: 
The current dialogue about mental illness and gun violence is fraught with misconceptions about the relationship between these two issues, as has been established by other contributors to this special issue. Underlying the dialogue in the popular press, among government officials and around kitchen tables across the country there is a search for explanations as to why violence continues to plague the United States, and perhaps more importantly, how to effectively intervene in what has become an all-too-frequent part of American life. 
As with so many persistent social issues, gun violence is a complex problem without a single cause or solution. However, identifying modifiable risk factors for gun violence and developing interventions targeting those specific factors have been shown to measurably reduce gun violence... 
Many gun violence prevention policy proposals reflect the common belief that people with mental illness are at increased risk of committing violence. 
Given that mental illness alone is a poor predictor of violence (Swanson, McGinty, Fazel, & Mays, 2014), more accurate indicators of risk are needed. 
This article presents a new tool for intervening in advance of these evidence-based markers of risk of harm to self or others, the gun violence restraining order (GVRO), and considers this tool as both an alternative to mental health diagnoses and an adjunct to other risk factor-based prohibitions on gun purchase and possession."
According to the conservative National Review's David French, "though the idea originated in progressive circles, there's nothing inherently left-wing about a GVRO. California, Washington, Oregon, Indiana, and Connecticut have passed various versions of GVRO laws, and similar proposals are under consideration in at least 18 states. The Trump administration is considering backing the concept."
NYAPRS strongly believes that the use of GVROs should be considered as a means to take guns away from potential shooters without targeting and stigmatizing Americans with mental health conditions.