October 1997

More Guns and Younger AssailantsA Combined Police and Trauma Center Study

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Surgery, University of California San Francisco, Fresno (Drs Davis and Kaups); and the College of Medicine, East Virginia University, Norfolk (Mr Rhames). Dr Davis is now with the Division of Trauma, University of South Florida, Tampa.

Arch Surg. 1997;132(10):1067-1070. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1997.01430340021002

Objective:  To test the hypothesis that guns have become the weapon of choice for assaults and that both assailants and victims have become progressively younger.

Design:  Retrospective review of trauma center and police department data sources.

Setting:  Regional trauma center with university affiliation; municipal police department.

Subjects:  Victims of assault with a deadly weapon from 3 discontiguous years.

Main Outcome Measures:  Age of assailant and victim, type of injury, frequency of blunt vs penetrating injury.

Results:  From June 1991 to May 1992 and June 1993 to May 1994, the incidence of penetrating trauma increased from 27% to 35% of trauma center admissions (χ2 test; P<.001). During the period from June 1985 to May 1994, assault with a deadly weapon increased by 220% and firearms became the most common assault mechanism (from 32% to 54%; χ2 test; P<.001). Assailants using guns became significantly younger, with the percentage of assailants aged 11 to 20 years increasing from 24% to 47% (χ2 test; P=.001). The ages of assault victims also decreased (P<.003), but were more evenly distributed across age categories.

Conclusions:  The incidence of penetrating trauma has increased in both absolute numbers and in relative proportion to blunt trauma. Firearms have become the weapon of choice and the single largest group of assailants are 11 to 20 years of age. The use of concurrent police and trauma center databases provides a more cogent basis for developing effective violence prevention strategies.Arch Surg. 1997;132:1067-1070