Author ORCID Identifier


Date of Award

Spring 5-8-2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Criminal Justice

First Advisor

William J. Sabol

Second Advisor

Dean Dabney

Third Advisor

Volkan Topalli

Fourth Advisor

Brent Teasdale


Access to firearms among individuals with mental health problems has been a source of protracted debate among policymakers, the media, and the public, writ large. At the center of this debate is the question of whether mental illness drives the nation’s gun violence problem. The lack of substantial empirical evidence, due in part to limited access to quality data, plays a significant role in perpetuating ongoing debate. To address this problem, I conducted three studies that explored the relationship between mental health problems and firearm access using empirical methods and data sources that have gone underutilized in the mental illness-firearm literature.

Using data from the National Comorbidity Study Replication (NCS-R), my first paper compared clinical, cultural, and criminological explanations for firearm access and carrying among people with and without mental health problems. My second paper estimates a predictive model to approximate multiyear firearm access among individuals with mental illnesses using data from both the NCS-R and the National Survey of Drug Use and Health. The paper also includes a simulation analysis to explore the potential effects of various firearm policies on gun access among the target population. Finally, because data on gun access, alone, is of limited use in explicating the relationship between mental illness and gun violence, the third paper will report the results of a study exploring the consequences of gun access among a sample of individuals with severe mental illnesses recently released from inpatient treatment.