from view, such as the burden on hospital emergency departments of firearm injuries (Zawitz and Strom, 2000). However, insufficient attention has been devoted to linkages across data in population coverage and the types of firearm violence covered. Can data from the UCR, the NCVS, and emergency departments be effectively linked to draw inferences about the firearms violence in the population? As with data standardization, continuing assessments of remaining gaps in the scope of firearms data should be part of an ongoing program of methodological research on firearm violence.
An often-highlighted limitation of existing data on firearms is the lack of detail regarding the context and circumstances of firearm violence. The Supplemental Homicide Report provides limited information on the relationship between victim and offender and event circumstances (e.g., whether the homicide is related to an argument or the commission of another felony). The National Incident-Based Reporting System extends such information to other crime types, but it covers less than 20 percent of the population more than 20 years after nationwide implementation began. Youth surveys, such as Monitoring the Future (MTF) and the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, collect data on multiple attributes of respondents in addition to firearm behaviors, but little information on the situations in which youth carry and use firearms. The MTF survey also includes a longitudinal component that tracks respondents over time. These panel data might be especially useful for assessing firearms acquisition and use over time. However, citing agreements with respondents regarding confidentiality, the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research has not made these data available to external researchers (see National Research Council, 2001). The most promising emerging data source with respect to information on the context and circumstances of firearm violence is the National Violent Death Reporting System, which will compile individual-level data from both criminal justice and public health sources on event circumstances, as well as detailed descriptions of the weapons used in violence. The NVDRS offers a model of a comprehensive data set that bridges existing data sources on individuals, events, and weapons.
An essential quality of any measurement system is the collection of standard data elements from reporting units for purposes of reliable classification and comparison. Good examples of standardized data sets for measuring firearm violence are the FBI’s UCR program, the National Crime Victimization Survey, and the mortality files available from the National