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LINK High rate of mental health problems and political extremism found in those who bought firearms during COVID pandemic


People who bought firearms during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic have much higher rates of recent suicidal thoughts, self-harm behaviors, and intimate partner violence, a new study suggests, compared with other firearm owners and people who do not own firearms.

Pandemic firearm buyers were also much more likely than the other groups to hold extreme beliefs, ranging from anti-vaccination views to support for QAnon conspiracy theories, according to the new findings published by in the journal PLOS ONE.

The survey was completed by 1,036 adults living in the United States in October 2021. While not nationally representative, recruitment for the survey was designed to approximate the US adult population in terms of the distribution of age, sex, race, and Hispanic ethnicity with participants drawn from 47 states and Washington, D.C.

The findings suggest that pandemic firearm buyers have special characteristics that deserve attention to prevent harm to themselves or others, say the researchers, who are from the University of Michigan, the University of South Florida, the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and Michigan State University.

With 53% of all firearm deaths nationwide being suicides, and 6 million firearm sales to first-time buyers in mid-2020, the findings also have implications for local, state, and national firearm policy.

"I have never seen a single question that differentiates people so dramatically on so many things in my career as a psychology researcher," said Brian Hicks, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at University of Michigan Health and U-M Addiction Treatment Services and professor in the U-M Department of Psychiatry.

"People who bought firearms during COVID, whether or not they had a firearm before, were very different from those who didn't," he continued. "They were far more likely to have major risk factors for being a danger to themselves or others, including high rates of suicidality, depression, and substance use, as well as extreme social and political beliefs. In other words, there are a lot of firearms now in the hands of people who were pretty distressed when they bought them."
He added, "On the other hand, those who owned firearms before COVID, but didn't buy any during the first 18 months of the pandemic, aren't much different from those who do not own firearms at all. About the only thing we found pre-pandemic gun owners differed on was having more pro-gun attitudes and being a bit more politically conservative compared to people who don't own firearms."

The analysis of survey data separated the respondents into three groups: 103 pandemic firearm buyers (regardless of whether or not they had owned firearms before their pandemic firearm purchase), 170 firearm owners who did not purchase a firearm during the pandemic, and 763 people who did not own a firearm.

Key areas where pandemic firearm buyers differed strongly from people who didn't own a firearm and firearm owners who did not buy a gun during the pandemic:

Pandemic firearm buyers were much younger than both groups; over half were in their 30s, and 70% were under age 40. Pandemic firearm buyers were also more likely to be male (70%) and white (91%) than people who did not own a firearm (45% male, 72% white).
55% of pandemic firearm buyers had thoughts of suicide in the past two weeks compared to 10% of pre-pandemic firearm owners and 6% of people who did not own a firearm. Also, 64% of pandemic firearm owners reported self-harm by cutting or burning themselves on purpose in the last two weeks, compared to 4% of the other two groups.
Over 40% of pandemic firearm buyers reported that they occasionally or frequently push, shove, slap, hit, or punch their romantic partner, compared to less than 2% of people who do not own a firearm or pre-pandemic firearm owners.
Pandemic firearm buyers reported much higher levels of mental health symptoms including depression, anxiety, alcohol use problems, nicotine use and antisocial behavior than people who did not own a firearm, and pre-pandemic firearm owners.
Pandemic firearm buyers were more likely to endorse QAnon conspiracies, Christian nationalistic beliefs, and pro-gun attitudes than people who did not own a firearm and pre-pandemic firearm owners. For instance, 76% of pandemic gun buyers, compared with 15% of both other groups, agreed with the QAnon statement that "the government, media, and financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshiping pedophiles who run a global child sex trafficking operation."
Pandemic firearm buyers were nearly three times more likely than pre-pandemic firearm owners (74% vs. 26%) to report that they carried a firearm outside their home, and nearly twice as likely to have obtained a state-issued permit to carry a firearm in public (81% vs. 47%).
Hicks and his co-authors note that not all pandemic firearm buyers were this different from the other groups regarding risk factors or beliefs.

This suggests a need to delve further into this population with larger sample sizes, and to develop public health messaging around suicide and violence prevention aimed at those with the highest risks.

Hicks, who has conducted multiple waves of the COVID-19 Adjustment and Behavior Survey, plans to conduct more representative and in-depth studies. One study involves testing gun violence prevention messages designed to reach higher-risk groups in Michigan, whose legislature passed a slate of firearm injury prevention laws following a mass shooting on the Michigan State University campus.

Even though suicide rates nationwide have held relatively steady since the pandemic, the long-term risk of suicide among those who are younger and have more mental health, substance use, and aggression concerns is very real.

Meanwhile, the rise in homicides, which was especially prominent in 2020 and 2021, means it is important to look more deeply at the possible role of pandemic-related firearm purchasing or acquisition in these deaths.

"Firearm owners are a diverse group, but it is especially pertinent that purchasing a gun during the COVID-19 pandemic was so effective at identifying a group of gun owners with such elevated levels of risk factors for violence and self-harm," said Hicks. "The societal effects of COVID, especially the first two years, were tremendously unsettling to many people.

"Combined with the social and political upheaval around the 2020 election, and the ability to self-select news and information sources that funnel people toward more extreme content, this appears to have spurred some high-risk individuals to take steps they felt would improve their security by buying firearms."

In addition to Hicks, the study's authors are Catherine Vitro, Elizabeth Johnson, Carter Sherman, Mary M. Heitzeg, C. Emily Durbin and Edelyn Verona.

HippieChick58 9 Sep 17

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And Donald Trump made it easier for persons with mental illness to buy guns while he was president...



You can't buy a gun if you are using drugs, but it's ok to have as many as you want if you have mental illness- like paranoia.


Well it proves them right doesn't it "The Ownly vak seen that werks is a 45 caliber slug tween the ayes, one shot un yer never gonna haff to wurry bout catchin' eny thin ever again Bubba!"


My supposition is that when we all got to lockdown people considered that the end of everything was not far away. Why not? We all see this in movies. Books carry the same message. Religious idiots take it in hook, line, and sinker. Regardless of polls about church goers my area has a great increase. A mechanic with a big garage on a hill turned it into a church. On Sundays the entire hillside is covered in cars. I'm sure a lot of them carry guns. A religious buddy of mine did. FDR said there is nothing to fear except fear itself. Seems like we have all had too much fear lately.


That’s comical.


I am so glad that I live in a country that has stringent gun laws.

...she said, with tongue firmly in cheek...😂

The best part about those areas is seeing the wealthy get armed security and the common folk getting stabbed and shot in the streets. London, Frankfurt, Chicago, and New York have nearly perfected that model.

Remember; those laws are in place to protect the rich. Not you the general society.

@Daleo I thought she was in the USA. My mistake!

I'm so glad I don't.

@Esprit_de_Corp Of course people get stabbed all around the world, however if you look into it you will find that there is a huge disparity between how many people get stabbed around the world and how many get killed by firearms in the US.

@Alienbeing Says he who very likely doesn't have any experience in living in any other country.

@Jolanta Actually I have lived in Germany and Japan, as if living in another country has any relationship to gin ownership.

Since you don't live n the USA don't concern yourself with our freedoms, they don't apply to you so you have no issue to contend with.

@Alienbeing Tell me about your life in Japan and Germany? How long and for what reason?

@Jolanta I've also lived out of the us, in Germany and Argentina. I prefer having our second amendment rights.

@Tejas So who are you going to fight with your gun rights? By the way, how long and in what capacity did you live in those countries?

@Jolanta I only lived in each of them for about 3 months each. Germany was very safe. One surprising fact though, the police at the airport were armed with AR styled rifles. I remember thinking that was crazy because I had never even seen that in the us at the time. Argentina was not so safe but not scary, the embassy told us to only go to certain places and during the day only. We lived in a guarded community full of Americans and wealthy people. I fail to see how any of this is relevant though. To answer your other question, I hope to never have to use firearms on anyone but if the need arises I would use them against anyone who was a threat to me my family or my community. Including government and or criminals.

You’re absolutely correct. New York and England are near equal sizes. England has more stabbings that that the US has shootings.
I suppose you didn’t do much research into the numbers…

@Jolanta Sure, I will go into great detail right after you explain why you, not a citizen, not a person who lives here, and not a person at all acquainted with our laws and customs cares about our gun ownership.

@Alienbeing No need to go into great detail. Easy enough to say I live there for such and such period because of such and such. I can assure you that I am acquainted with laws and customs in the US probably more than a lot of people who live there.

@Alienbeing, @Tejas Living in a gated community like you did is not really as living in the country.

@Jolanta I beg to differ I also see it as irrelevant and I wonder the point behind your question. Are you just spewing nonsense and hope something sticks?

@Jolanta Note that part of my reply that said "after you explain why you, not a citizen, not a person who lives here, and not a person at all acquainted with our laws and customs cares about our gun ownership."

@Tejas Well you would know everything about nonsense.

@Tejas, @Alienbeing So I see it is very hard for some people to understand why others would care about their well being then.

@Jolanta are you going to elaborate on your point or just insult me?

@Jolanta I will elaborate as soon as you give reasons why you are so interested. I said that at the start, why are you having a hard time understanding that? It isn't hard to understand, it is impossible to understand because you never gave a reason. Caring about other's well being is not a reason because that statement does not even prove you care to any degree other than conversation.

Last, cite exactly where I insulted you.

@Alienbeing I was talking to the aussie

@Tejas Ooops, so was I, sorry for the error.


Not at all surprised. I saw the crazy ramp up with my twin during the pandemic. She was already a gun owner and now has gotten her husband to buy a gun.



People who buy during natural disasters pandemics etc. Of course are the preppers, doomsdayers and People who believe they may be in danger. This post is kind of a no brainer to me, it happens with every disaster. I'd also like to know who doesn't have some type of mental health issues nowadays, most people fall under some type of disorder. Meh post

Tejas Level 7 Sep 17, 2023

Very interesting but not really surprising.


"High rate of mental health problems and political extremism" is a perfect description for the modern day Republican. It's a fucked up party full of fucked up people and if they get back into power, they will burn down this country.

Vote D or we're doomed.

Sounds like fear mongering to me

@Tejas Against all reason and contrary to all evidence, a majority of Republicans claim to believe that the 2020 election was stolen and Trump is an innocent victim of political persecution. That sure sounds like mass mental illness to me.

@Daleo Driving through Colorado a few years back, I could not believe how many dead trees I was seeing. It was only a matter of when they would burn, not if.

@Daleo Yes I'm a baby boomer, but science denier? Me? Nah bra, I taught biology and Earth science for 20 years. I've been shouting about the existential threat that climate change poses from the rooftops for decades.

What was it I wrote that would make you think I am a science denier?

I usually have to have a very clear provocation before I say to a stranger, "go fuck yourself." What's your deal? Is there some medication that you should be taking? Or are you high? Or just a nasty piece of work? You have been on this site long enough to comment on exactly ONE post, and right out of the gate you're telling people to go fuck themselves? Really? Wow.

Because they control our Southern Border so well?

@Tejas Then you're clearly not paying attention to everything the Rs have been doing and saying for the last eight years nor are you paying attention to the people they're currently putting up to be their potential nominees. The Rs are an extremist party who prefer fascism over democracy and lust for power over all else.

Wake up.

@Flyingsaucesir You got it!

@Sgt_Spanky do i agree with most of anything that Republicans, no. Do I feel like they are going to ruin the country for everyone, no. Every four years people like you scream the other side is gonna ruin everything. Please think for yourself.

@Tejas I have and I have seen the lunacy that has overwhelmed the GOP since the influence of Trump. If you can't see it, you're choosing ignorance much like Germany did when Naziism found its way into their government and people weren't horrified by first.

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