HealthDay News — Almost one in 10 Americans has a history of impulsive and angry behavior and ready access to guns, new research indicates.

The serious mental health issues that would legally prevent someone from purchasing a gun — such as involuntary commitment to a psychiatric ward for schizophrenia or bipolar disorder — only account for about 4% of U.S. gun violence, noted study author Jeffrey Swanson, MD, a professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, N.C.

The study of more than 5,600 adults found that 8.9% of them were admittedly short-fused people who had guns at home. And 1.5% of them also carried their guns outside the home.

Swanson’s findings, published online in the journal Behavioral Sciences and the Law, stem from a fresh analysis of a large mental health survey conducted by Harvard Medical School between 2001 and 2003.

To explore to what degree gun ownership and anger management problems overlap, the investigators pored over survey responses from a nationally representative sample of more than 5,600 men and women.

The respondents were asked about tantrums and other bursts of angry behavior. They also underwent diagnostic testing for relatively common mental health conditions such as anxiety and personality disorders, and were asked how many handguns, rifles, and/or shotguns they owned.

While less than 10 percent of the quick-to-anger gun owners had ever been hospitalized for a serious psychiatric issue, this group had an elevated risk for more common mental health conditions such as personality disorders, alcohol abuse, anxiety and post-traumatic stress, the researchers said.

The study authors said these elements indicate inherent risk of violence.


Swanson JW, et al. Guns, Impulsive Angry Behavior, and Mental Disorders: Results from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R). Behav Sci Law. 2015; doi: 10.1002/bsl.2172.