Handguns are displayed a firing range in St. Peters, Mo. on Nov. 26, 2014. 
Photo by Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty

Nearly one in 10 Americans have anger issues and access to guns


The authors of a recent study are calling for tighter gun-control laws after they found that nearly one in 10 Americans self-reported patterns of violent behavior and also own guns at home or carry firearms when they travel.

Americans who have both a history of impulsive, angry behavior and access to at least one firearm at home comprise 8.9% of the population, according to the study, published Wednesday in Behavioral Sciences and the Law, a peer-reviewed journal. Almost 1.5% of the population – 4.8 million people – have anger issues and carry guns outside of their homes.

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Since only a small proportion of people with disorders and access to firearms are hospitalized involuntarily for mental health problems, most individuals aren’t subject to legal restrictions on firearms. As a result, the authors of the study are calling for the revision of gun-control laws. They suggest, for example, that firearms laws take behavioral risk into account by expanding the definition of gun-prohibited individuals to include people with violent misdemeanor convictions.

The study, based on analysis of interviews with 5,000 adults between 2001 and 2003, in which participants answered questions about their behaviors and gun ownership, comes as mental health issues have emerged as a major focus of the debate over gun control. 

In a 2013 report on the Newtown, Connecticut, massacre, investigators concluded that the 20-year-old gunman, who killed 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School, had significant mental health issues that affected his ability to live a normal life and interact with other people. Jurors in the upcoming trial of James Holmes will decide if he was mentally ill when he allegedly killed a dozen people and wounded scores more inside a crowded movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, in 2012.

The federal background check system currently stops 170 felons, 50 domestic abusers, and 20 fugitives from buying a gun each day, msnbc previously reported. But a weak point in the law allows for those same individuals to purchase a weapon online or at a gun show after they are denied a firearm from a licensed dealer. According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which analyzed 33 gun policies in each state, many states make it “far too easy” for criminals and people with severe mental illnesses to obtain weapons.

Thirty-seven states have passed an unprecedented 99 laws to strengthen gun regulations since 2013, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Five states – Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, New York, and Washington – have expanded background checks to all gun sales since the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook. As a result, one in three Americans now live in states that protect them with expanded background checks.