Most gunshot victims and survivors were young minority men with prior court arraignments
A new study published in the journal JAMA Network Open analyzed data on 221 gun homicides and 1,012 nonfatal shootings that happened between 2010 and 2014.
The statistics provided a confirmation of the typical demographics of U.S. shooting cases:
- 26 years old on average
- 80% Black
- 92% Male
JAMA Results: The final sample of 511 gunshot victims and survivors (n = 220 fatal; n = 291 nonfatal) was predominantly male (n = 470 [92.2%]), black (n = 413 [80.8%]) or Hispanic (n = 69 [13.5%]), and young (mean [SD] age, 26.8 [9.4] years).
Anthony Braga of Northeastern University and Philip J. Cook of Duke University analyzed data on hundreds of shootings from 2010 to 2014. While the focus of the study centered on firearm caliber, the raw data overwhelmingly supported the fact that “most gunshot victims and survivors were young minority men with prior court arraignments,” Braga and Cook found. “Most attacks occurred in circumstances where gangs or drugs played an important role.” Most occurred outdoors in disadvantaged neighborhoods.
Gun violence is most common in poor urban areas and frequently associated with gang violence, often involving male juveniles or young adult males. Although mass shootings have been covered extensively in the media, mass shootings in the US account for a small fraction of gun-related deaths and the frequency of these events steadily declined between 1994 and 2007, rising between 2007 and 2013.
Association of Firearm Caliber With Likelihood of Death
The results of the JAMA study as well as the narrative from Washington Post contradict the findings in their conclusion. The stated purpose of the study was to associate larger firearm caliber with increased likelihood of death, however in the published results of the study it is reported that of the shooting cases with known firearm size, the most common caliber was 9mm in both nonfatal shootings (50 of 184 [27.2%]) and gun homicides (65 of 183 [35.6%]). In fact the 9mm was used more often in homicides than in nonfatal shootings.
Although for the purposes of the study 9mm caliber was technically labeled as medium caliber, it is commonly understood that 9mm is a small caliber firearm. 9mm is considered small caliber because of the energy generated and the cartridge case capacity. The cartridge case capacity directly effects the amount of gun powder that can be used and how long a bullet can be seated on top of a powder load.
The report did mention limitations of this study. First, caliber was not available for all shootings. Second, the study is limited to the criminal shootings known to the police in a particular time and place.
JAMA Conclusion: The finding that the type of weapon is associated with fatality rate provides insight into the nature of homicide. Whether the victim of a serious assault lives or dies is to a large extent a matter of chance, rather than a question of the assailant’s intent. The probability of death is connected to the intrinsic power and lethality of the weapon. That suggests that effective regulation of firearms could reduce the homicide rate. That conclusion is relevant to the national debate over gun regulation, although insufficient in itself to demonstrate that any particular regulation would satisfy a cost-benefit test.
It would appear the study is being used for political purposes to indiscriminately suggest a ban on large caliber firearms. It has been noted that there was no information provided about the percentage of shootings that involved stolen guns, unregistered guns, guns that where modified, or otherwise being used illegally. In these typical cases of underground weapons, increased gun regulation wouldn’t solve the problems of drug/ gang violence.
Perhaps a more useful conclusion would have focused on criminal intent and underlying issues that feed the violence and gang issue in the U.S.