Young males are an even larger percentage of firearm-related homicide offenders than homicide victims. For example, cumulative data from the FBI’s Supplementary Homicide Reports (SHR) for the years 1976 to 1999 reveal that males committed 90 percent of all firearm-related homicides (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2002a). In 1999, 56 percent of the 10,969 offenders who used firearms to commit murder were between 14 and 24 years old. The rate of handgun murders by persons under age 18 nearly quadrupled from 1985 to 1993, and rates for 18- to 24-year-olds more than doubled, while homicides by persons over 24 declined steadily from 1985 on. The highest concentrations of recent involvement in handgun homicides have been among young blacks; the homicide offense rate among blacks ages 18 to 24 tripled between 1984 and 1993, while the combined offense rates for young whites and Hispanics did not begin to increase until 1987 and even then accounted for a relatively small proportion of the subsequent rise and fall in the handgun homicide rate (Blumstein, 2000).

Historically, firearm homicide rates have been higher than the national average in the southern states, about average in the mid-Atlantic and north central regions, and below average in the New England, mountain, and west north central states (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2002a). Larger cities (more than 100,000) have had higher homicide and firearm homicide rates than smaller cities, towns, or rural areas.

Firearms and Nonfatal Injuries

Aggravated Assault

Assaults are the most common type of nonfatal firearm injury in the United States, but firearms are not the most common method of nonfatal assault. Figure 3-4 shows trends in the rates of aggravated assault by firearm involvement. According to the UCR, the aggravated assault rate more than quadrupled from 1964 to 1992 and has been declining just as steeply since then.11 Nonfirearm-related assaults accounted for 72 percent of the overall rise from 1964 to 1992 and 57 percent of the overall decline from 1992 to 2000; firearms were involved in only 18 percent of assaults in 2000; and assaults using blunt objects constituted the largest share of offenses.


Recent trends in aggravated assault rates have dropped much more dramatically between 1993 and 2000 according to the NCVS than the UCR—53 versus 27 percent, respectively (Maguire and Pastore, 2002: Table 3.120; Rennison, 2001: Table 8).

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