Gun-Related and Other Violent Crime After Involuntary Commitment and Short-Term Emergency Holds

J Am Acad Psychiatry Law. 2020 Dec;48(4):454-467. doi: 10.29158/JAAPL.200082-20. Epub 2020 Oct 5.

Abstract

This article presents a survival analysis of long-term risk of firearm-related and other violent crime in a large sample of adults with serious mental illness in Florida, comparing those who received a gun-disqualifying civil commitment after a short-term hold, those who were evaluated for commitment but were released or hospitalized voluntarily, and a third group with no holds or commitments. Among 77,048 adults with a diagnosis of schizophrenia-spectrum disorder, bipolar disorder, or major depression, 42.7 percent were detained for psychiatric examination under Florida's Baker Act; of that detained group, 8.4 percent were involuntarily committed while the remainder were released within 72 hours or agreed to voluntary admission. Over a follow-up period averaging six to seven years, 7.5 percent of the sample were arrested for a violent offense not involving a gun, and 0.9 percent were arrested for a violent crime involving a gun. A short-term hold with or without commitment was associated with a significantly higher risk of future arrest for violent crime, although the study population had other violence risk factors unrelated to mental illness. Risk of gun-involved crime, specifically, was significantly higher in individuals following a short-term hold only, but not in those who were involuntarily committed and became ineligible to purchase or possess guns. Policy implications are discussed.

Keywords: firearm restrictions; gun violence prevention; involuntary commitment; serious mental illness; short-term psychiatric holds; violent crime.