The increased publicity of mass shootings and the COVID-19 pandemic have fueled American demand for firearm purchases. Firearm violence has largely been blamed on people with mental illnesses instead of firearm accessibility, despite the lack of population-level evidence associating mental illness with firearm violence perpetration. We support interventions and policies to limit firearm access in homes, schools, and by all intimate partners who have been convicted of domestic abuse. We advocate for restrictions on the civilian purchases of semi-automatic rifles and large capacity magazines. Finally, we call for research addressing firearm violence as an environmental and structural issue, not an intrapersonal one.

Key Take Away Points

  • Despite worsening mental health outcomes among American youth, there is little population-based evidence supporting an association between firearm violence perpetration and mental illness.
  • Firearm accessibility increases the risk for firearm violence and injuries.
  • Preventing school shootings requires both promotion of socio-emotional learning and restrictions of firearm sales from young civilians.
  • Provisions in the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act to regulate access to firearms is an initial step to reducing firearm violence.
  • Long-term reductions in firearm violence require structural approaches to improve social determinants of health.

Author Biography

Annalyn S. DeMello, PhD, MPH, RN is an Assistant Professor in the School of Nursing at the University of Texas Medical Branch. She is a population health and nurse researcher who focuses on the behavioral, social, and community health determinants that affect firearm injuries and violence among adolescents and young adults. Yu Lu, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Health and Exercise Science at the University of Oklahoma. Her primary research interests are in health disparities in the context of substance use and interpersonal violence. Her recent work examines cross-sectional and longitudinal associations between risk behaviors, such as smoking, firearm violence, (cyber)bullying, and intimate partner violence, and the social and cultural factors influencing them. Jeff R. Temple, PhD is a professor, licensed psychologist, and the Vice Dean for Research and Scholarship for the School of Nursing at the University of Texas Medical Branch, where he also holds the John Sealy Distinguished Chair in Community Health. As the Founding Director of the Center for Violence Prevention, his research focuses on the prevention of interpersonal, community, and structural violence.