Most police officers have frequent contact with people with mental illness, but have minimal training in recognizing the symptoms and assessing when they should be taken to a clinic or emergency room for further evaluation. Perhaps the most useful intervention … is to provide police officers with some good, basic mental health knowledge.
When guns are present, officers might use de-escalation skills to temporarily remove weapons from individuals at-risk of violence or suicide. If one happens to be in a state such as Indiana that has a preemptive “dangerous person” gun seizure law, police can remove firearms without a warrant, pending a judicial hearing, even if the person with mental illness is not imminently dangerous at the time and wouldn’t meet criteria for involuntary commitment.
We also might examine the minimum age at which people can easily purchase guns. FBI data indicate that 45 percent of identified murderers are younger than age 25. Many young adults are experiencing (often for the first time) serious mental health or social difficulties, and thus pose special risks to themselves and others. Rental car companies apply extra scrutiny to drivers under the age of 25. Perhaps there’s a lesson there for gun policy.