Gun Control and Mental Health

On February 14th, 19 year old Nikolas Cruz shot and killed seventeen people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Cruz, who had previously been treated for depression and reported to authorities for disturbing behavior, was still able to legally purchase an assault rifle prior to the shooting, reigniting debates about mental health and gun control.

Weighing in on the events in Parkland, APA President Jessica Henderson Daniel, PhD, issued a statement that read:

While law enforcement is still piecing together the shooter’s motives, some public figures and news reports are focusing on his mental health. It is important to remember that only a very small percentage of violent acts are committed by people who are diagnosed with, or in treatment for, mental illness. Framing the conversation about gun violence in the context of mental illness does a disservice to the victims of violence and unfairly stigmatizes the many others with mental illness. More important, it does not direct us to appropriate solutions to this public health crisis.

Last year, APA Books Published the 25th Anniversary edition of Violent Men: An Inquiry Into the Psychology of Violence by Hans Toch. This title explores the personal motives, attitudes, assumptions, and perceptions of men who are recurrently violent. Toch answers questions about the dynamics of escalating violent behavior, and discusses what personal dispositions and orientations are most apt to lead to violence.

APA authors, editors, and scholars have addressed the topic of violence and aggression in multiple books and articles.

The APA also offers a variety of books and other resources on surviving and discussing trauma, including:

We hope that these resources can provide insight and serve as some help to any who may need it in these difficult times.

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