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Guns and psychiatry: what psychiatrists need to know

  • Ann M. Mortimer (a1)
Summary

The private ownership of firearms for participation in shooting sports, subject to a rigorous process of certification by the police, is not uncommon in the UK. Primary care medical involvement in this process is currently a contentious issue. The mental health of firearms owners is clearly germane to public safety: suicide is by far the greatest concern, alongside security breaches. Homicide committed with legally held firearms is very rare: there is very little cross-over between legitimate shooting sports and crime involving firearms. The perpetrators of family annihilation and single-incident mass killings using firearms in the UK have not been known to psychiatry, although a minority have been found to be mentally disordered post hoc. Regarding suicidality, there is little if any difference between those at risk who own firearms and those who do not, excepting that firearm suicide attempts are highly likely to be fatal. Guidance is offered in this article on the identification of patients who own firearms, the evaluation of risks and how to manage these in practical terms.

LEARNING OBJECTIVES

After reading this article you will be able to:

  • demonstrate a basic knowledge of varieties of sporting firearms and understand the differences between legitimate and criminal use of firearms in the UK
  • appreciate mental health problems related to the private ownership of firearms and the risks of suicidality
  • understand the role of the police in certification and how to raise concerns when a patient's access to firearms is an issue.

DECLARATION OF INTEREST

A.M.M. is a member of the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), which is a subscription organisation. In 2015 she was elected by the membership onto BASC's Council of Directors, as an unpaid volunteer non-executive director.

Copyright
Corresponding author
Correspondence Professor Ann M. Mortimer, NAViGO House, 3–7 Brighowgate, Grimsby DN32 0QE, UK. Email: ann.mortimer@nhs.net
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References
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Beckford, N (2012) Almost 3000 guns lost or stolen in UK, figures reveal. BBC News, 29 August. BBC (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-19416579). Accessed 7 April 2019.
British Association for Shooting and Conservation (2015) Value of shooting for wellbeing highlighted in new research. Press release, 27 April. BASC (https://basc.org.uk/blog/press-releases/latest-news/value-of-shooting-for-wellbeing-highlighted-in-new-research/). Accessed 7 April 2019.
Gold, LH (2016) Introduction. In Gun Violence and Mental Illness (eds Gold, LH, Simon, RI): xixxlvi. American Psychiatric Association Publishing.
Home Office (2016) Annex C: firearms licensing and medical evidence: factsheet. In Guide on Firearms Licensing Law: 268–70. Home Office.
Home Office (2018) Firearm and Shotgun Certificates in England and Wales, Financial Year Ending 31st March 2018 (Statistical Bulletin 12/18). Home Office.
McGinty, EE, Webster, DW (2016) Gun violence and serious mental illness. In Gun Violence and Mental Illness (eds Gold, LH, Simon, RI): 330. American Psychiatric Association Publishing.
Mullen, PE (2004) The autogenic (self generated) massacre. Behaviour, Science and the Law, 22: 311–23.
Office for National Statistics (2018a) Suicides in the UK: 2017 Registrations. ONS ( https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/bulletins/suicidesintheunitedkingdom/2017registrations ). Accessed 7 April 2019.
Office for National Statistics (2018b) Homicide in the UK: Year Ending March 2017. ONS (https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/articles/homicideinenglandandwales/yearendingmarch2017). Accessed 7 April 2019.
Reality Check Team (2018) Gun crime: how do weapons appear on England's streets? BBC News, 10 May. BBC (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-44053904). Accessed 7 April 2019.
Simon, RI, Gold, LH (2016) Decreasing suicide mortality: clinical risk assessment and firearm management. In Gun Violence and Mental Illness (eds Gold, LH, Simon, RI): 249–89. American Psychiatric Association Publishing.
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BJPsych Advances
  • ISSN: 2056-4678
  • EISSN: 2056-4686
  • URL: /core/journals/bjpsych-advances
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Guns and psychiatry: what psychiatrists need to know

  • Ann M. Mortimer (a1)
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