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Injuries and Deaths Due to Firearms in the Home

Kellermann, Arthur L. MD, MPH; Somes, Grant PhD; Rivara, Frederick P. MD, MPH; Lee, Roberta K. RN, PhD; Banton, Joyce G. MS

Journal of Trauma-Injury Infection & Critical Care: August 1998 - Volume 45 - Issue 2 - pp 263-267
Articles: Presented At The 11Th Annual Meeting Of The Eastern Association For The Surgery Of Trauma, January 14-17, 1998, Sanibel, Florida

Objectives: Determine the relative frequency with which guns in the home are used to injure or kill in self-defense, compared with the number of times these weapons are involved in an unintentional injury, suicide attempt, or criminal assault or homicide.

Methods: We reviewed the police, medical examiner, emergency medical service, emergency department, and hospital records of all fatal and nonfatal shootings in three U.S. cities: Memphis, Tennessee; Seattle, Washington; and Galveston, Texas.

Results: During the study interval (12 months in Memphis, 18 months in Seattle, and Galveston) 626 shootings occurred in or around a residence. This total included 54 unintentional shootings, 118 attempted or completed suicides, and 438 assaults/homicides. Thirteen shootings were legally justifiable or an act of self-defense, including three that involved law enforcement officers acting in the line of duty. For every time a gun in the home was used in a self-defense or legally justifiable shooting, there were four unintentional shootings, seven criminal assaults or homicides, and 11 attempted or completed suicides.

Conclusions: Guns kept in homes are more likely to be involved in a fatal or nonfatal accidental shooting, criminal assault, or suicide attempt than to be used to injure or kill in self-defense.

From the Center for Injury Control (A.L.K.), + School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center (F.P.R.), University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, the University of Texas Medical Branch (R.K.L.), Galveston, Texas, and the Department of Preventive Medicine (G.S., J.G.B.). University of Tennessee, Memphis, Tennessee.

The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the authors' institutions or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This study was supported by grant CCR-407419 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Address for reprints: Dr. Kellermann, Center for Injury Control, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, 1518 Clifton Road, N.E., Atlanta, GA 30322.

© Williams & Wilkins 1998. All Rights Reserved.