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The problem isn't mental health—it's access to guns, new research suggests
The "dangerous people" framework is a myth.
- A new study by University of Texas Medical Branch researchers states that gun access, not mental health, leads to gun violence.
- The team discovered that mental illness and personality traits are not reliable indicators of gun violence.
- This line of research could have important implications for legislation and rehabilitation.
America doesn't have a gun problem; it has a mental health problem: a post-mass shooting slogan trotted out time and again. Like many other slogans, it suffers from a major flaw: it isn't true.
That's the consensus of a recent study published in the journal, Preventive Medicine, by two University of Texas Medical Branch researchers. Yu Lu and Jeff Temple investigated three potential links to gun violence—gun access and ownership; mental illness; and personality traits—and discovered only one actually predicted gun violence.
It's all about access.
"Counter to public beliefs, the majority of mental health symptoms examined were not related to gun violence. Instead, access to firearms was the primary culprit."
Language matters, as it is the entry point into understanding the root of any problem. In this case, the stakes are dire. Up to 100,000 Americans are non-fatally injured by firearms each year; between 30,000-40,000 Americans die every year from gunshots. One-third are homicides and 61 percent are suicides, with roughly 1 percent attributed to accidents.
While that's disturbing enough, Lu and Temple write that there has been a mass shooting (four or more people killed) every single day over the past two years. In these situations, access and ownership appear to be the main catalyst.
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This fact has been obscured by the dangerous people framework: guns don't kill people, people kill people. Lu and Temple respond with the dangerous weapons framework. Give people an opportunity to own weapons and they take advantage of the possibilities.
For this study, Lu and Temple analyze the "temporal relationships between mental health and gun violence" among 663 participants of diverse backgrounds: a third self-identified Hispanics, 27 percent black, 26 percent white, 13 percent other nationalities, with an average age of 22 years old. Notably, 62 percent of respondents were female.
While mental health definitions are sometimes difficult to assess, they investigated a number of conditions, including anxiety, depression, stress, PTSD, hostility, impulsivity, and borderline personality disorder. They discovered that these conditions are not good predictors of gun violence. In fact, out of this list only one—hostility—increased the likelihood of the person threatening another with a gun.
Yet even that number paled in comparison. Those who reported hostile inclinations were 3.5 times more likely to threaten another individual with a gun. What truly predicted gun violence? For gun owners, the risk of threatening another was 18 times greater.
"Prior gun carrying, having access to a gun, and owning a gun were all linked to future gun carrying. Although gun carrying itself is not a violent behavior, research has demonstrated a strong link between this behavior and gun violence victimization."
David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez, survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla., assemble on the East Front of the Capitol during a rally to organize letters to be delivered to congressional offices calling for an expansion of background checks on gun purchases on Monday, March 25, 2019.
Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
There's that old sentiment about being a hammer and everything looking like a nail. All technologies become extensions of our bodies, as Marshall McLuhan so eloquently phrased it. Our bodies take on the contours of cars when we're driving; my mind is extended through the pecking of my fingers on this laptop. Everything we touch becomes an instrument to use. Put something in our hands and we assume it is part of us, and treat it as such.
So much more so with weaponry. If I feel hostile toward someone, it takes a lot of work to physically confront that person with words, much less fists. Extend my consciousness with a gun and the ability to threaten becomes more seductive. The fetishism of firearms is a biological tenet: we like to feel power. Given the opportunity we're likely to exploit that trait.
Yes, dangerous people exist. Give them a dangerous weapon and their likelihood of engaging in danger increases—by a lot, as this research shows. Volunteers for the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment likely didn't expect to be torturing fellow citizens a day into the study, but that's how quickly we adapt to new environments, especially when placed in positions of authority.
As the authors note, this research could be helpful in deciding how to proceed with future gun legislation and treatment for criminals. We just have to ensure that we're treating the right symptoms. Thanks to research like this, we're understanding what to focus on, an important step forward in one of the most contentious issues in America today.
Join multiple Tony and Emmy Award-winning actress Judith Light live on Big Think at 2 pm ET on Monday.
Your favorite color can be linked to various personality traits, motivation, and productivity levels in your life.
- Color psychology has been used in marketing and branding for years, but research in the last decade has taken color psychology and applied it to human personality traits.
- Colors aren't merely associated with various feelings but can actually shape our perceptions and personalities.
- Various studies across multiple years have given us insight into what each color represents in regards to our personality, work ethic, and motivation levels.
What is color psychology?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjkzNDU4MC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0Mzc2Mzk4NX0.KqHFgzhzl-dKmUvgDZsYGEDgDPVU40mA2mV1GLb1a68/img.png?width=1500&coordinates=0%2C0%2C0%2C0&height=1314" id="109d8" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="42ec0b499017c39ed1e3df32308370c2" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="The Logo Company color marketing infographic" />
Colors have been used strategically in branding for years.
Image by The Logo Company<p>Many people are unaware of the impact colors have on our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors in everyday life.</p><p>It's extremely likely that you have purchased something in a store or chosen one product over another due to what brands call color marketing: targeting brands, colors, and adverts based on colors that will influence you to buy. </p><p>You can see in the infographic above that companies that want to be associated with dependability (Dell, HP, IBM) use the color blue. Companies that want to be known for being exciting and fun (Fanta, Amazon, Nickelodeon) use a splash or orange. </p><p>Color psychology is being used around us every single day and not only in what brands we buy, but also in how we react to our environment. Extending color psychology into the realm of personalities is about proving that colors aren't just about what looks the best, but about what meaning we subconsciously attach to those colors, and how to use that to benefit our lives.</p>
What your favorite color says about your personality<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjkzNTc2Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NTc2MTU1NH0.iLH4yQoMFZMDW1YJo1YRMR8jOZDfDd3PFdu_IynkBcM/img.jpg?width=980" id="6e5e9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5b38c0f7793933f9ab35a61a2f7bb14a" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="child holding crayons" />
A new study looks at what would happen to human language on a long journey to other star systems.
- A new study proposes that language could change dramatically on long space voyages.
- Spacefaring people might lose the ability to understand the people of Earth.
- This scenario is of particular concern for potential "generation ships".
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Many of the most popular apps are about self-improvement.
Emotions are the newest hot commodity, and we can't get enough.