Overhauling Mental Health Care Is Not a Cure-All for Reducing Gun Crime, Experts Say

PHOTO: Gun violence and mental health. Getty Images/EyeEm
Gun violence and mental health.

Following the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando earlier this month, the national conversation has once again turned to the link between gun violence and mental health. But would improving mental health care in the U.S. have a major impact on gun crimes?

In this audio segment, two experts -- one in gun violence, the other in mental health -- challenge headlines suggesting that an overhaul of the mental health system would address widespread gun violence and other violent behavior.

“If we were to eliminate the risk associated with mental illness, about 96 percent of the violent behavior out there would still be there,” said Dr. Jeffrey Swanson, a leading gun violence researcher at Duke University.

Ron Honberg, senior policy adviser for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, welcomes the call to improve the mental health system but thinks that overstating the link between mental illness and gun violence only adds to the stigma of people with mental health issues.

“Most people with mental illnesses are not violent,” Honberg noted. “And most struggle, oftentimes silently, because of the stigma.”

ABC News Health's new audio series takes a closer look at health and medical stories making the news. Dr. Akshay Ganju is an emergency medicine resident at Emory University. Dr. Alex Sable-Smith is a family medicine resident at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. They are currently residents at the ABC News Medical Unit.