Method. Data are from an ongoing longitudinal study of 1,042 adolescents originally recruited from seven public high schools in the southern U.S. In the present study, we used Waves 6 (n = 758) and 8 (n = 686). Final analytic sample was comprised of 663 participants (61.7% female), including 33.6% self-identified Hispanics, 26.0% white, 27.0% Black, and 13.4% other, with an average age of 22 years at Wave 8. Controlling for gender, race, and age, we ran a series of multivariate logistic regressions to examine whether gun access and ownership, mental health symptoms, and prior mental health treatment predicted firearm violence (gun carriage and threatening someone with gun).
Results. Relative to their counterparts, individuals with access to firearms were 18.15 times (95% CI: 2.52, 130.48) and those with high hostility were 3.51 times (95% CI: 1.27, 9.71) more likely to have threatened someone with a gun, after controlling for demographic factors and prior mental health treatment. Further, relative to their respective counterparts, individuals (1) with access to firearms were 4.74 times (95% CI: 2.01, 11.16), (2) who reported gun ownership were 5.22 times (95% CI: 2.31, 11.77), and (3) with high impulsivity were 1.91 times (95% CI: 1.25, 2.93) more likely to have carried a gun outside of their homes, after controlling for prior gun carriage, mental health treatment, and demographic factors.
Conclusions. Contrary to a common public and political narrative, we did not find a robust link between mental health and gun violence. Instead, access to firearms was the primary culprit in gun violence. These findings have important implications for gun control policy efforts.