The purpose of this investigation was to identify population groups at highest risk of using a firearm in a fatal incident.
Los Angeles County (California, USA).
Data were gathered from vital statistics reports and law enforcement records on the characteristics of suicide victims (n = 4799) and homicide suspects (n = 5369) from 1990 through 1994. Logistic regression was used to identify characteristics of the actor/perpetrator that were associated with firearm use.
Persons less than 21 years old and males were more likely to use a firearm to kill themselves or someone else. Even when their other demographic attributes and characteristics of the incident itself were taken into consideration, persons under the age of 18 were substantially more likely than those 21 or more years old to use a firearm in the commission of a homicide (adjusted odds ratio = 2.59). Asians were less likely than white people to use a firearm in the commission of a suicide, whereas black people, Hispanics, and Asians were more likely than whites to use a firearm in the commission of a homicide.
The US enacts and enforces some policies differentially by age. These data support the idea that such an approach may be warranted when addressing fatalities associated with the use of a firearm. Of particular interest, given minimum age requirements for firearm purchases, is the source of the weapons themselves.