The Case for Enhanced Data Collection of Gun Type
Medicine and Health Sciences
Background: National surveillance systems have differentiated long guns into rifles and shotguns but fail to do so for handgun type. We sought to determine whether specific gun type data could be collected and whether knowledge of specific gun types (rifle, shotgun, pistol, revolver) could be used to distinguish gun homicide victims with respect to important injury parameters such as number of wounds. Methods: Data on gun fatalities over a 5-year period in three communities were abstracted from medical examiner/coroner, police, and crime laboratory records. Results: Gun type was obtained for 92% of 490 guns linked to 405 gun homicides. Handguns were associated with more wounds per gun than long guns (p = 0.001) and more entry wounds per gun than long guns (p = 0.002). Among handguns, pistols were associated with more wounds per gun (p < 0.001) and entry wounds per gun (p = 0.001) than revolvers. These same associations were not found among specific long gun types (i.e., rifles and shotguns). Conclusion: Our findings demonstrate that information about gun type can be obtained and that significant differences exist in wounds per gun between long guns and handguns and between pistols and revolvers. Classification of long guns into rifles and shotguns and handguns into pistols and revolvers should be included in local, regional, and national data collection systems.