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Taking Mental Health Out Of The Gun Violence Debate

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Curtis Gregory Perry via CC
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  After mass-casualty shootings, the national debate often focuses on preventing people with mental illness from buying guns. But at the forum hosted by UNM’s Psychiatry Department this week, researchers said that might not be the smartest way to decrease gun violence in America—or in New Mexico.

  Josh Horwitz is with the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence out of D.C. "When you consider someone like Loughner, who shot [Congresswoman] Gabby Giffords in Tucson, we can debate what type of mental illness he had or whether he had mental illness," he said. "That’s really beside the point. He was someone who was dangerous, mad at the world. That’s someone that shouldn’t have a firearm."

Medical professionals who deal with gun violence met up in New Mexico on Tuesday night. They were talking about making gun laws that are based on evidence about when firearms are most commonly used. 

Horwitz said family members are usually the first to know when someone’s exhibiting dangerous behavior. "One of the things we think New Mexico would benefit greatly from is a gun violence restraining order," he said. "It allows family members and law enforcement to temporarily remove a firearm when someone’s in a crisis."

The panel also recommended temporarily prohibiting people who’ve been convicted of violent misdemeanors from owning firearms, and making sure all domestic violence restraining orders come with a gun restriction.

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Credit Marisa Demarco / KUNM
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From left: APD Lt. Glenn St. Onge, Jeffrey Swanson, Amy Barnhorst, Beth McGinty and Garen Wintemute

Marisa Demarco began a career in radio at KUNM News in late 2013 and covered public health for much of her time at the station. During the pandemic, she is also the executive producer for Your NM Government and No More Normal, shows focused on the varied impacts of COVID-19 and community response, as well as racial and social justice. She joined Source New Mexico as editor-in-chief in 2021.
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