An estimated 9 percent of American adults who have a history of impulsive anger issues have access to guns, according to a new study released on Wednesday.

A research co-authored by psychiatrists from Duke, Columbia and Harvard Universities revealed that these people typically get angry often, tend to break things when they are upset, or get involved in fights with others. They are usually men in their prime or in their middle ages.

The study also pointed out that around 1.5 percent of these males experience a strong need to own a gun and carry it outside when they get impulsively angry.

"As we try to balance constitutional rights and public safety regarding people with mental illness, the traditional legal approach has been to prohibit firearms from involuntarily-committed psychiatric patients," Jeffrey Swanson, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University, stated.

"Now, we have more evidence that current laws don't necessarily keep firearms out of the hands of a lot of potentially dangerous individuals," Swanson added.

Researchers performed 5,563 face-to-face interviews in the National Comorbidity Study Replication (NCS-R). They discovered that people who own a gun and are prone to sudden bursts of anger have a very high risk of being diagnosed with common psychiatric conditions such as anxiety, alcohol abuse, post-traumatic stress and personality disorders. However, only a very small percentage of these individuals have been observed with acute symptoms of primary mental issues such as schizophrenia.

There was little evidence of overlapping between patients with serious mental disorders and those with a tendency to be angry and impulsive and have access to guns.

The NCS-R interviews, headed by Harvard University, are considered to be a nationally representative survey of mental conditions in America.

Ronald Kessler, Harvard professor of healthcare policy, elaborated that few people in the interviewed group experience the types of disorders that usually lead to involuntary commitment and which would legally prevent them from purchasing a firearm.

Kessler and his colleagues maintained that there is a more effective way to prevent gun violence than discriminating based on treatment records for mental health. By examining the history of misdemeanor convictions of a prospective gun buyer, such as violent incidents and multiple convictions for impaired and reckless driving, it would limit the irresponsible ownership of firearms in the country.

The Duke, Columbia and Harvard study was published in the Behavioral Sciences and the Law journal.

Photo: Mika Järvinen | Flickr 

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