Criminology Firearms and Violence
Ramiro Martínez
  • LAST REVIEWED: 24 July 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 14 December 2009
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396607-0030


The study of firearms and violence usually involves research on gun-use differences in crime patterns or the role of firearms in violent crimes or violent deaths, including homicide, suicide, and accidental deaths. Despite recognition that a link exists between firearms and violence, current knowledge on the sources and consequences of this linkage is still being gathered. In part, this is because research is evolving. Most of the data used in these studies are from criminal justice agencies and are limited or require refinement for researchers. For example, some agencies do not always use refined firearm categories, particularly with respect to handguns. Still, although current knowledge is evolving, there is a large body of research on firearms and violence. Criminologists tend to favor examining the impact of firearms, rather than other social and economic factors, on violent crimes such as homicide across countries, cities, or communities. Some social scientists also examine the effects of firearms on violence by exploring the relationships among youth violence, violent crime, homicide, and suicide, including the impact of gun ownership or firearm availability on crime. However one chooses to explore firearms violence research, there are also important criminal justice and public health policy implications to consider in looking at this topic.

Data Sources

There are a number of data sources for information on patterns and trends in firearms and violence. The data usually come in three major types: special data compiled by various criminal agencies, including police and corrections; injury and death statistics from public health agencies, such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which runs the Web-Based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System; and data from population surveys, including the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey. The General Social Survey also provides information on the extent of gun ownership in the United States. Researchers generally regard data as more reliable when similar patterns and trends are established across data sources.

  • General Social Survey

    The National Opinion Research Center (NORC) runs the General Social Survey, a research study on social issues that was begun in 1972. The study provides an annual estimate of the prevalence of household firearm ownership in the United States. An excellent online GSS data repository and analysis tool is available from the SDA Archive.

  • National Archive of Criminal Justice Data

    A repository for datasets from crime and justice studies, including funded firearms and violence research. Includes data from the Uniform Crime Reports, National Crime Victimization Survey, National Incident-Based Reporting System, and other sources. Online data analysis capabilities available for selected datasets.

  • National Crime Victimization Survey

    Jointly produced by the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau, the survey provides statistics on firearms and crime reports, nonfatal assaults, robberies, rapes, other sexual assaults, and nonviolent crimes in the United States, based on annual representative surveys of the population. Includes criminal victimizations not reported to the police.

  • Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics

    A comprehensive source for U.S. crime and justice data, including FBI crime statistics, data from the National Crime Victimization Survey, death penalty statistics, and public opinion surveys.

  • Web-Based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System

    Provides current and trend data on the role of firearms on fatal and nonfatal injuries, including assaults and homicides. Counts and rates can be disaggregated by victim sex, race, age, and ethnicity. Data from the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) also available. Maintained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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