Should mental health issues stop you from getting a gun?

Marinella Yada, 52, believes in-depth tests to determine mental competence should be required before an individual is allowed to own a gun in America.

Yada, interviewed Monday at a Tenleytown Starbucks, said that an abundance of firearms but a lack of access to mental health care is one reason why the United States continues its struggle with gun violence.

“The government needs to be more consistent with profiling and dig deeper to find out more about people,” Yada said. “There has to be more effort from all levels of government.”

Yada represents a growing number of Americans who feel people suffering from mental illness should have their restrictions on firearm ownership tightened. In January, a Pew Research report found 79 percent of those surveyed agreed with laws to prevent mentally ill persons from buying guns. That support was nearly identical across party lines.


A half dozen Washington, D.C. residents and visitors felt mental health issues are key to gun ownership laws, especially in the wake of high-profile shootings in Orlando and Newtown.

Danielle Higgins, 25, who sat at her laptop at a Tenleytown Panera, said no citizen needs to own a gun and more guns in the hands of anyone means more violence in society.

Doug McKenna, a 42-year-old American University employee, agreed with Higgins that guns were not meant for the general public to carry and use.

“I believe that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to a well-regulated militia, and people stockpiling AR-15s and ammunition are neither well-regulated nor a militia,” McKenna said.

Paul Daily, 45, said he agrees with Americans’ Second Amendment rights, but says for those with mental health issues, there may need to be more safeguards.

“Everybody has the right to bear arms,” Daily said. “But people need to realize that there’s also the issue of mental health, which is a much bigger issue than just guns.”

Sixty percent of mass shootings committed in the United States since 1970 have involved a mentally ill shooter, according to the National Institutes of Health.

But, those statistics differ from others offered by the National Association of Social Workers, which claim the majority of violent gun crimes are actually committed by those with no mental health diagnosis. There have been a few instances which involve a mentally ill shooter, but these should not exemplify the community as a whole.

However, most of those interviewed this week maintain that while gun ownership should not be prohibited for the mentally ill, stricter requirements must be employed should they choose to obtain a firearm.

“With pretty much any diagnosable mental health condition, there needs to be restrictions on gun ownership,” McKenna said. “Anything we can do to reduce the number of guns in people’s hands is a good thing.”