The Medium Is the Message: Firearm Caliber as a Determinant of Death from Assault

Category: Firearm Availability, Homicide|Journal: Journal of Legal Studies (full text)|Author: F Zimring|Posted On: January 01,1972

This is the second report of a research project on violent assault in Chicago. The first, a study of fatal and nonfatal assaults with knives and guns, produced evidence to support three conclusions:

(1) Most homicide is not the result of a single-minded intention to kill at any cost.

(2) Many nonfatal attacks with knives and guns are apparently indistinguishable in motive, intent and dangerousness from many fatal attacks. Indeed, the overlap between fatal and nonfatal assaults with knives and guns is much more impressive than any differences that were noted.

(3) Weapon dangerousness, independent of any other factors, has a substantial impact on the death rate from attack.

This paper first reports on an attempt to carry the earlier research one step further by comparing low-caliber with high-caliber firearms attacks, and then suggests some ways in which the data developed in the two studies of fatal and nonfatal attacks might interest criminologists and criminal law scholars.