Nonfatal use of firearms in intimate partner violence: Results of a national survey

Prev Med. 2021 Jun;147:106500. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2021.106500. Epub 2021 Mar 3.


Research on intimate partner violence (IPV) and firearms has typically focused on homicide, so there is limited information on how firearms are used in nonfatal ways, particularly in community samples. We sought to estimate the prevalence of nonfatal firearm abuse in the context of IPV, understand how and against whom firearms are used, and examine consequences of this abuse. Using a national web-based survey of US adults who experienced IPV (n = 958), we asked respondents about experiences with nonfatal firearm abuse, including the frequency of firearm behaviors and consequences. Based on screening data weighted to be nationally representative, we estimated that 9.8% (95% CI: 9.0%, 10.6%) of US adults - or nearly 25 million - have experienced nonfatal firearm abuse by an intimate partner (i.e., were threatened with a firearm, had a firearm used on them, or were threatened by a partner who possessed or had easy access to a firearm). IPV victims who experienced nonfatal firearm abuse commonly reported experiencing other forms of IPV. The most common behaviors included the partner displaying a firearm (67.5%) and threatening to shoot the victim (63.0%). The majority (80.5%) of perpetrators were male, and 49.2% of respondents had a child at home at the time of abuse. The most common consequences of nonfatal firearm abuse were concerns for safety (86.2%) and feeling fearful (82.7%). Additionally, 43.1% of respondents reported physical injury, and 37.4% missed days of work or school. Practice and policy around firearm access for IPV perpetrators should attend to nonfatal firearm use against intimate partners.

Keywords: Domestic violence; Firearms; Intimate partner violence; Survey; Threats.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Female
  • Firearms*
  • Homicide
  • Humans
  • Intimate Partner Violence*
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Sexual Partners