Sarah Goodwin
Kathi Ovnic
Holly Korschun
October 6, 1998


A study evaluating 626 shootings that occurred in or around residences in three U.S. cities indicates that "Guns kept in homes are more likely to be involved in a fatal or nonfatal residential shooting, criminal assault, or suicide attempt than to be used to injure or kill in self-defense The number of unintentional shootings, criminal assaults and suicide attempts involving a gun kept in the home exceeded the number of self-defense and legally justifiable shootings by a ratio of 22 to 1."

The research was reported in the August issue of The Journal of Trauma, Infection, and Critical Care by Emory University's Arthur L. Kellermann, M.D., and colleagues.

"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," the authors report.

All fatal and nonfatal shootings that occurred during a 12-month period in Memphis and 18-month periods in Seattle and Galveston in the early 90s were evaluated by the team of researchers representing the Rollins School of Public Health of Emory University; Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center, Seattle; University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston; and the Department of Preventive Medicine at the University of Tennessee, Memphis.

Official records from police departments, medical examiners and ambulance crews were linked with records from hospital emergency departments, trauma centers and community hospitals to identify those shootings that occurred in or close to private residences.

Of the 626 home-related shootings, 54 were unintentional, 118 were attempted or completed suicides and 438 were assaults or homicides. Thirteen were legally justifiable or an act of self-defense, including three that involved law enforcement officers acting in the line of duty. Sixteen took place under unclear circumstances.

A total of 1,915 cases of gunshot injury were identified during the 18-month study interval in the three cities; 626 (about one third) occurred in or near a residence.

The type of firearm involved was noted in 525 cases (84 percent); in 456 of those (87 percent), it was a handgun. Two thirds of the residential shootings (430) took place at the home of the victim, and one-fourth took place at the home of a third party (157). Six percent (39) took place at the home of a shooter other than the victim.

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