United States and for any assessment of the quality of activities and programs aimed at reducing violence (National Research Council, 2003). Detailed data on firearm-related death, injury, and risk behaviors are limited.
Most measurement of crime in this country emanates from two major data sources. The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports has collected information on crimes known to the police and arrests from local and state jurisdictions throughout the country for almost seven decades. The National Crime Victimization Survey, a general population survey designed to discover the extent, nature, and consequences of criminal victimization, has existed since the early 1970s. Other national surveys that focus on specific problems, such as delinquency, violence against women, and child abuse, also provide important data on crime, victims, and offenders. A variety of data sources have been used to assemble information on suicide and accidents, and the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) has been funded via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to collect information on all violent deaths.
In this section, we describe four datasets used to monitor and assess firearms-related violence: the National Crime Victimization Survey, the Uniform Crime Reports, and two emerging systems, the National Incident-Based Reporting System and the National Violent Death Reporting System. The latter two are thought to hold some promise for improving the research information on firearms and violence. Many of the other data collection sources (listed in Table 2-1) have very limited information on firearms and have been assessed elsewhere (see, for example, Annest and Mercy, 1998; Institute of Medicine, 1999).
The National Crime Victimization Survey, which relies on self-reports of victimization, is an ongoing annual survey conducted by the federal government (i.e., the Census Bureau on behalf of the Department of Justice) that collects information from a representative sample of nearly 100,000 noninstitutionalized adults (age 12 and over) from approximately 50,000 households. It is widely viewed as a “gold standard” for measuring crime victimization. The largest and oldest of the crime victimization studies, it uses a rotating panel design in which respondents are interviewed several times before they are “retired” from the sample. It uses a relatively short, six-month reporting period. Respondents are instructed to report only incidents that have occurred since the previous interview and are reminded of the incidents they reported then. The initial interview is done face-to-face to ensure maximum coverage of the population; if necessary, subsequent interviews are also conducted in person. The