News media framing of serious mental illness and gun violence in the United States, 1997-2012

Am J Public Health. 2014 Mar;104(3):406-13. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2013.301557. Epub 2014 Jan 16.


Recent mass shootings by persons seemingly afflicted with serious mental illness (SMI) have received extensive news media coverage and prompted national dialogue about the causes of, and policy responses to, mass shootings. News media framing of SMI as a cause of gun violence may influence public attitudes about persons with SMI and support for gun violence prevention proposals. We analyzed the content of a 25% random sample of news stories on SMI and gun violence published in 14 national and regional news sources from 1997 to 2012. Across the study period, most news coverage occurred in the wake of mass shootings, and "dangerous people" with SMI were more likely than "dangerous weapons" to be mentioned as a cause of gun violence.

MeSH terms

  • Bibliometrics
  • Firearms*
  • Humans
  • Mass Casualty Incidents*
  • Mass Media*
  • Mental Disorders*
  • Public Opinion*
  • United States
  • Violence / psychology*