Background: The best estimates of nonfatal gunshot wounds in the United States come from hospital emergency room data and may miss, among other things, wounded individuals who do not seek medical treatment. Criminals may be those least likely to rely on professional care for their wounds. This study provides evidence of whether medical care is solicited by criminals after gunshot wounds. In addition, the circumstances of the injury events are described.
Methods: A case series of 79 detainees at a Washington, DC, jail who had previously been shot in 93 separate incidents were interviewed using a standardized questionnaire. Data were obtained concerning the age and race of the victim, the location of the wound, and the length of hospital stay.
Results: In 92% of the incidents, respondents reported going to the hospital; one-third of those shot were hospitalized for more than 1 week. More than half (54%) had been hit in the head or torso, and 40% had a current disability attributable to the wound.
Conclusion: Among these "criminals," the vast majority reported that they obtained professional care for their gunshot wounds. Such evidence suggests that individuals previously thought unlikely to enter the medical care system after a firearm injury usually do so. Statistics on medically treated nonfatal gunshot wounds probably do not substantially underestimate the actual number of nonfatal shootings.