Trends and Patterns in Firearm Violence, 1993–2018

Trends and Patterns in Firearm Violence, 1993–2018

U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report APRIL 2022 NCJ 251663 Trends and Patterns in Firearm Violence, 1993–2018 Grace Kena and Jennifer L. Truman, Ph.D., BJS Statisticians



The firearm homicide rate decreased 41% overall from 1993 to 2018 (from 8.4 to 5.0 homicides per 100,000 persons age 12 or older), reaching a low of 4.0 per 100,000 in 2014 before rising to 5.0 per 100,000 in 2018.

The rate of nonfatal firearm violence for persons age 12 or older declined 76% from 1993 to 2018, dropping from 7.3 to 1.7 victimizations per 1,000, and ranging from 1.1 to 1.8 per 1,000 from 2014 to 2018.

The majority of firearm violence involved the use of a handgun from 1993 to 2018.

During the aggregate period of 2014–18, males had higher rates than females of both firearm homicide and nonfatal firearm victimization. Persons ages 18 to 24 had the highest firearm homicide rate among persons age 12 or older (11.6 homicides per 100,000) during 2014–18.

From 1993 to 2018, on average, 71% of homicides were committed with a firearm.

Nearly 70% of nonfatal firearm violence was reported to police during 2014–18.

Data sources, measures, and definitions of firearm violence

This report uses information from several data sources to examine trends and patterns in firearm violence from 1993 to 2018 and the more recent period of 2014 to 2018, including death certificates, data reported to law enforcement agencies, and victimization survey estimates. These sources have different methodologies and provide distinct information about firearm-related crimes, victims, and incidents. Together, these complementary measures provide a broad overview of firearm violence in the United States. For more information about the data sources used in this report, see Methodology.


Firearm homicide data

Homicide data in this report are primarily from the Webbased Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) Fatal Injury Reports developed from the National Vital Statistics System (NVSS) of the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. NVSS mortality data are produced from standardized death certificates and include causes of death reported by attending physicians, medical examiners, and coroners. NVSS data also include demographic information about decedents reported by funeral directors who obtain such details from family members and other informants. The NCHS collects, compiles, verifies, and prepares these data for release to the public. Additional information in this report on firearm-related homicides comes from the FBI’s Supplementary Homicide Reports (SHR). Generally, the NVSS produces more accurate information than the SHR on annual homicide rates at the national level, though trends from the two data sources tend to be similar. (See The Nation’s Two Measures of Homicide (NCJ 247060, BJS, July 2014) for more information.) The NVSS includes more complete state and local jurisdiction reporting and has more complete information about victim characteristics. However, because NVSS data do not provide detailed information about homicide incidents, SHR data are used for table 4, which shows firearm homicides by type of gun involved. Nonfatal firearm violence data The Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) is the source for nonfatal f irearm violence data in this report. The NCVS collects information on nonfatal crimes against persons age 12 or older reported and not reported to police from a nationally representative sample of U.S. households. It provides detailed data on the characteristics of nonfatal f irearm violence. While most NCVS estimates in this report are based on victimizations, table 13 presents incident-level data to facilitate comparisons between victim and offender demographic characteristics.

Measures and definitions Rates are presented per 100,000 persons for homicide and per 1,000 persons age 12 or older for nonfatal victimization. Trend estimates of nonfatal firearm violence by type of gun are presented as 3-year rolling averages. Several tables in this report focus on aggregate periods of multiple years, such as 2014 through 2018, with some presenting data as annual average estimates and others as aggregate estimates for the period. These approaches—using rolling averages and aggregated years—increase the reliability and stability of the estimates of nonfatal violence, which facilitates comparisons over time and between subgroups. Estimates are shown for different years based on data availability and measures of reliability. Key terms used in the report Firearm—A weapon that fires a projectile by force of an explosion, e.g., handguns, rifles, and shotguns. Firearm homicide (NVSS)—Includes fatal injuries that involved a firearm and were inflicted by another person with intent to injure or kill by any means. Fatal f irearm injuries are gunshot wounds or penetrating injuries from a weapon that uses a powder charge to f ire a projectile. Includes homicides due to the events of September 11, 2001. Excludes homicides due to legal intervention and operations of war. Firearm homicide (SHR)—Includes both murders and nonnegligent manslaughters that involved a f irearm and the willful killing of one human being by another. Excludes justifiable homicides, nonnegligent manslaughter, and homicides resulting from operations of war and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Nonfatal firearm violence (NCVS)—Includes rape or sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault victimizations against persons age 12 or older in which the offender had, showed, or used a firearm, and excludes simple assault victimizations. For more information on these crime types, see Criminal Victimization, 2018 (NCJ 251150, BJS, December 2017). Nonfatal violence excluding simple assault (NCVS)—Includes rape or sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault against persons age 12 or older. Nonfatal violent and property victimizations (NCVS)—The total number of times that persons or households were victimized by crime. For crimes against persons, the number of victimizations is the number of victims of that crime. For crimes against households, each crime is counted as having a single victim (the affected household). Nonfatal violent incidents (NCVS)—The number of specific criminal acts involving one or more victims.