Online Program

Understanding the new state laws and proposed policies to reduce gun violence in persons with serious mental illness: Advantages and potential pitfalls

Monday, November 4, 2013 : 2:30 p.m. - 2:50 p.m.

Paul Appelbaum, MD, Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons, New York, NY
Following the tragic shooting at Newtown in December 2012, the Obama administration and several states proposed new firearms laws and policies that affect persons with mental illness, as well as mental health service providers. New York's Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act of 2013 included a requirement for mental health professionals to report dangerous persons to local authorities, and also expanded and strengthened the state's Assisted Outpatient Treatment law. Pennsylvania implemented a policy of reporting gun-disqualifying mental health records to the federal background check database, including records of persons detained on short-term emergency commitments. Maryland's gun policy initiative includes selective reporting to the background check system all individuals who have been involuntarily committed for danger to others, but not danger to self; it also provides for increasing investment in mental health screening and crisis intervention services. Indiana, after a previous mass shooting, enacted a “dangerous persons” law that authorizes warrantless seizure of weapons from persons deemed to pose a danger to self or others, irrespective of mental illness, at least until a judicial hearing is held within 14 days. A number of states are developing and implementing policies to restore firearms rights to persons who have lost those rights due to a disqualifying mental health record. This presentation will describe the policy challenges and different approaches to reduce firearms injury and mortality, and will evaluate their potential benefits, drawbacks, and unanticipated adverse consequences for persons with mental illness, mental health professionals, and society.

Learning Areas:

Ethics, professional and legal requirements
Other professions or practice related to public health
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
Describe federal and state firearms restrictions, laws and policies related to persons with mental illness. Compare and contrast several state-level policies on gun violence and mental illness that have been proposed or enacted in the aftermath of the Newtown shooting. Discuss the implications of these policies for persons with mental illness and for mental health professionals, and to evaluate the policies’ intended benefits as well as potential unintended adverse consequences.

Keyword(s): Mental Illness, Firearms

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: PAUL S. APPELBAUM, M.D., is the Elizabeth K. Dollard Professor of Psychiatry, Medicine and Law, and Director, Division of Law, Ethics and Psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons. He is the author of many articles and books on law and ethics in clinical practice. Dr. Appelbaum is Past President of the American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.