Background An important risk factor for suicide is psychiatric illness, but only a limited amount of work has been directed at assessing the use of firearms and other weapons by select psychiatric populations at high risk for violent acts. Method Patients with combat-related posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), patients with schizophrenia, and patients undergoing rehabilitation for substance abuse were asked to complete a weapons-use survey and measures of psychopathology. Results The PTSD patients surveyed related owning more than four times as many firearms as other subjects and reported significantly higher levels of potentially dangerous firearm-related behaviors than the other psychiatric subjects surveyed. Conclusion High levels of aggression, impulsive and dangerous weapon use, and ready weapon availability may be significant factors in gun-related violence in the PTSD patient population. Additional prospective research is needed to determine whether gun ownership or certain types of weapon use in this population is associated with future acts of violence.
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