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.