Attitudes toward guns and mental illness stigma among college students in the United States.

Rikki H. Sargent, Leonard S. Newman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the United States, citizens opposed to stricter gun control laws as a response to mass shootings frequently reframe the problem of gun violence as a mental health issue. As a result, it has been suggested that pro-gun attitudes (i.e., pro-gun rights attitudes and favorable attitudes toward the National Rifle Association) might be associated with stigmatizing attitudes toward people with mental illness. In three studies (total N = 756), we assessed gun attitudes as predictors of mental illness stigma among college students in the United States (data collected in 2018 and 2019). While zero-order correlations revealed that pro-gun attitudes predict more negative attitudes toward people with mental illness, they were not unique predictors after adjusting for political affiliation. These findings replicate previous research on the relationship between conservatism and mental illness stigma and provide a starting point for future research assessing relationships between gun attitudes, political affiliation, and mental illness stigma. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved) <strong xmlns:lang="en">Public Policy Relevance Statement—People with mental illness often seem to be used as scapegoats for gun violence, especially among those who harbor pro-gun attitudes (e.g., the National Rifle Association). This research suggests that pro-gun attitudes are associated with more mental illness stigma (i.e., negative general attitudes toward people with mental illness), but that political affiliation serves as a stronger predictor of the stigmatizing attitudes. It is thus important that policymakers acknowledge stigma-related implications for people with mental illness when responding to gun violence and incorporate ways to reduce such stigma in targeted intervention efforts among pro-gun and conservative populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)271-279
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Orthopsychiatry
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2021


  • attitudes toward mental illness
  • gun attitudes
  • mental illness stigma
  • political affiliation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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