APA applauds provisions of White House plan to stem gun violence

APA expressed strong support for key components of President Obama’s plan to protect American children and communities by reducing gun violence.

APA pledges to work with the administration and Congress to implement President Obama's new plan to reduce gun violence. APA singled out for praise the specific proposals to:

  • increase access to mental health services;

  • identify and refer youth and young adults in need of mental health treatment;

  • train more psychologists and other mental health professionals;

  • end the freeze on gun violence research;

  • require criminal background checks for all gun sales; and

  • ensure that health insurance plans offer mental health benefits at parity.

"The recent gun violence tragedy in Connecticut spotlighted our nation's mental health system and the need to redouble efforts to make effective services available and refer individuals to treatment when indicated," said APA CEO Norman B. Anderson, PhD. "To achieve these goals, it is critical to overcome the stigma often associated with seeking mental health care."

APA endorsed the provision to end the freeze on federal gun violence research. This ban has significantly hampered psychological scientists' ability to systematically assess the risk of assault and other weapons to the public, and to determine the effectiveness of various preventive measures.

APA commended the White House's recognition that "the vast majority of Americans with mental illness are not violent …" Empirical research has shown that individuals with mental illness account for a very small percentage of violent crimes, including those involving guns. Yet many individuals with mental health problems do not receive the care they need due to stigma and the unavailability of care.

Making schools safer and more supportive is also of paramount importance, according to APA. Psychological research has documented the corrosive effects of bullying. APA strongly supports measures to increase the number of psychologists and other mental health professionals in schools and communities to help create a positive school climate and reduce violence, including through serving on threat assessment and crisis intervention teams.

Finally, APA strongly endorsed the president's call for mental health coverage at parity in private and public health insurance plans. APA is urging the administration to encourage state health officers to classify Medicaid mental health services offered by psychologists as mandatory services to increase access to care.