Injuries and deaths due to firearms in the home

J Trauma. 1998 Aug;45(2):263-7. doi: 10.1097/00005373-199808000-00010.


Objective: Determine the relative frequency with which guns in the home are used to injure or kill in self-defense, compared with the number of times these weapons are involved in an unintentional injury, suicide attempt, or criminal assault or homicide.

Methods: We reviewed the police, medical examiner, emergency medical service, emergency department, and hospital records of all fatal and nonfatal shootings in three U.S. cities: Memphis, Tennessee; Seattle, Washington; and Galveston, Texas.

Results: During the study interval (12 months in Memphis, 18 months in Seattle, and Galveston) 626 shootings occurred in or around a residence. This total included 54 unintentional shootings, 118 attempted or completed suicides, and 438 assaults/homicides. Thirteen shootings were legally justifiable or an act of self-defense, including three that involved law enforcement officers acting in the line of duty. For every time a gun in the home was used in a self-defense or legally justifiable shooting, there were four unintentional shootings, seven criminal assaults or homicides, and 11 attempted or completed suicides.

Conclusions: Guns kept in homes are more likely to be involved in a fatal or nonfatal accidental shooting, criminal assault, or suicide attempt than to be used to injure or kill in self-defense.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Home / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Accidents, Home / statistics & numerical data*
  • Crime / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Crime / statistics & numerical data
  • Firearms / statistics & numerical data*
  • Homicide / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Homicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Suicide / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Tennessee / epidemiology
  • Texas / epidemiology
  • Urban Health*
  • Washington / epidemiology
  • Wounds, Gunshot / epidemiology
  • Wounds, Gunshot / etiology*
  • Wounds, Gunshot / mortality