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January 3, 1996

Characteristics of Firearms Involved in Fatalities

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Emergency Medicine (Dr Hargarten and Ms O'Brien) and General Surgery (Dr Quebbeman), Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee; Center for Health Systems Research and Analysis, University of Wisconsin—Madison (Dr Karlson); and the Office of Consumer Protection, Wisconsin Department of Justice, Madison (Mr Hancock).

JAMA. 1996;275(1):42-45. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03530250046025

Objectives.  —To document the types of firearms associated with firearm fatalities, and to determine the availability of information on firearm characteristics in existing data sources.

Design.  —Review of police, medical examiner, and crime laboratory records for all firearm homicides and review of medical examiner records for all suicides and unintentional and undetermined firearm fatalities.

Setting.  —City of Milwaukee, Wis, from 1990 through 1994.

Population.  —A total of 175 firearm suicides and 524 firearm homicides.

Main Outcome Measures.  —Source of data; circumstances and means of death; host demographic characteristics; firearm make, model, caliber, barrel length, and serial number.

Results.  —Handguns accounted for 468(89%) of 524 firearm homicides and 124 (71%) of 175 firearm suicides. Handguns of.25 caliber accounted for 14% (n=63) of 438 firearm homicides and 12% (n=15) of all firearm suicides in which caliber was known. The Raven MP-25 was the single most commonly identified firearm and accounted for 10% (n=15) of 153 handgun homicide cases and 7% (n=7) of the 76 suicide cases in which the manufacturer of the firearm was identified. From all data sources combined, information on firearm type was available in 681 (97%) of 699 cases, caliber/gauge in 636 cases (91%), manufacturer/model in 309 cases (44%), and serial number in 276 cases (40%).

Conclusions.  —Inexpensive, short-barreled.25-caliber handguns were the most common weapon type associated with firearm homicides and suicides in Milwaukee during 1990 through 1994. Product-specific information is a crucial part of planning appropriate injury countermeasures for firearms. In combination, police, crime laboratory, and medical examiner data can supply this information with modest changes in data collection procedures.(JAMA. 1996;275:42-45)