The role of mental illness identification and screening in firearm background checks
Barklage, Kevin M.
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Highly publicized mass shootings, and often the corresponding commentary on the perpetrator's mental health, lead many to question how such a person could have acquired access to a firearm. Mental illness, broadly speaking, is a prohibiting criterion for individuals to purchase a firearm, yet there are several examples of individuals who have a history of mental illness and are able to legally pass a firearm background check. This thesis examines the tenuous relationship between mental illness and violence, and evaluates federal and state laws to assess the prohibited criteria. Individuals with mental illness who go untreated and have co-occurring disorders are at an increased risk of violence, yet may never enter into the courts or are not involuntarily committed to a mental institution. This research concluded, therefore, that statutes need to change by placing less emphasis on involuntary commitment to mental institutions and instead adopt a risk-based approach that restricts firearm access by individuals with a mental illness who may present a risk of violence once they are identified. Legal, procedural, and clinical implications are explored to ensure that individuals' Constitutional rights are protected while mitigating risk and maintaining a primary goal of ensuring effective treatment.
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