Situational Factors

A number of situational factors are also associated with increased firearm violence. The presence of, or use of, drugs or alcohol is associated with assaultive and firearm violence (Garbarino et al., 2002; Nielsen and Martinez, 2003; Scribner et al., 1995; Shepherd et al., 2006). Moreover, criminals often engage in violence as a means to acquire money, goods, or other rewards; however, many instances of violence often are impulsive, angry responses to perceived or experienced social or physical threats (Connor et al., 2003). Some social and psychological research suggests that the need to defend social status may increase the likelihood and severity of response to provocation in the presence of an audience (Griffiths et al., 2011; Papachristos, 2009). Strong evidence also exists that observing a gun can “prime” aggressive behavior in certain situations, especially among those prone to aggression (Anderson et al., 1998; Berkowitz and LePage, 1967). Drinking to excess, drug use, recreational pursuit of fun (Jensen and Brownfield, 1986), involvement in drug dealing or group drug use (Sparks, 1982), gang membership (Jensen and Brownfield, 1986), involvement in minor or violent offending (Sampson and Lauritsen, 1990), and other lifestyle factors increase the risk of victimization. Other studies have delineated the finding that there is often significant overlap between victims and offenders in that they may share a set of routine activities (Osgood et al., 1996) or lifestyles (Hindelang et al., 1978) or have high levels of aggression or low self-control (Jennings et al., 2010), or that offenders may victimize one another because they believe they can do so with impunity from law enforcement (Sparks, 1982). Other situational factors, such as excessive heat (Anderson et al., 1995) or the presence of community disorder (or “broken windows”) (Wilson and Kelling, 1982), have been cited as contributors to violence, although research is conflicting (Anderson et al., 1995; Butke and Sheridan, 2010).

Specific locations may also be more closely tied to certain types of firearm-related violence. Based on 2008 data from the NVDRS, almost half of firearm homicides occurred in a house, apartment, or surrounding property; one-quarter occurred on public streets or highways; and natural areas, vehicles, parking lots, parks or athletic areas, hotels/motels, and commercial areas accounted for most of the remaining murder scenes (Karch et al., 2011).

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement