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Gunshot Residue Testing in Suicides: Part II Analysis by Inductive Coupled Plasma–Atomic Emission Spectrometry

Molina, D Kimberley MD; Martinez, Michael MSFS; Garcia, James MS; DiMaio, Vincent J. M. MD

The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology: September 2007 - Volume 28 - Issue 3 - p 191-194
doi: 10.1097/PAF.0b013e31813e62cf
Original Article

Several different methods can be employed to test for gunshot residue (GSR) on a decedent's hands, including scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive x-ray (SEM/EDX) and inductive coupled plasma–atomic emission spectrometry (ICP-AES). In part I of this 2-part series, GSR results performed by SEM/EDX in undisputed cases of suicidal handgun wounds were studied. In part II, the same population was studied, deceased persons with undisputed suicidal handgun wounds, but GSR testing was performed using ICP-AES. A total of 102 cases were studied and analyzed for caliber of weapon, proximity of wound, and the results of the GSR testing. This study found that 50% of cases where the deceased was known to have fired a handgun immediately prior to death had positive GSR results by ICP/AES, which did not differ from the results of GSR testing by SEM/EDX. Since only 50% of cases where the person is known to have fired a weapon were positive for GSR by either method, this test should not be relied upon to determine whether someone has discharged a firearm and is not useful as a determining factor of whether or not a wound is self-inflicted or non–self-inflicted. While a positive GSR result may be of use, a negative result is not helpful in the medical examiner setting as a negative result indicates that either a person fired a weapon prior to death or a person did not fire a weapon prior to death.

From the Bexar County Medical Examiner's Office, San Antonio, Texas.

Manuscript received December 5, 2005; accepted February 8, 2006.

Reprints: D. Kimberley Molina, MD, Bexar County Medical Examiner's Office, 7337 Louis Pasteur, San Antonio, TX 78229. E-mail:

© 2007 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.