In 1992 offenders armed with handguns committed approximately 931,000 violent crimes. Handgun crimes accounted for about 13 per cent of all violent crimes. As measured by the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), the rate of nonfatal handgun victimizations in 1992-4.5 crimes per 1,000 people age 12 or older-supplanted the record of 4.0 per 1,000 in 1982.
On average per year in 1987-1992, about 62,200 victims of violent crime, about one per cent of all victims of violence, used a firearm to defend themselves. Another 20,300 used a firearm to defend their property during a theft, household burglary, or motor vehicle theft.
For 1987-1992 victims reported an annual average of about 341,000 incidents of firearm theft. Because the NCVS asks for types, but not a count, of items stolen, the annual total of firearms stolen probably exceeded the number of incidents.
Violent Crime Rates
Unlike the record rate of handgun crimes in 1992, the overall rates for violent crimes were well below the 1981 peaks. (Except where noted, this article excludes homicides, which NCVS does not measure.) The total 1992 rate for rape, robbery, and aggravated and simple assault was 35 per 1,000 persons, compared to 39 per 1,000 in 1981. The 1992 rate of 17 per 1,000 for the more serious crimes (rape, robbery, and aggravated assault) was also less than the 20 per 1,000 in 1981.
Most Likely Victims of Handgun Crime
â€¢ Males were twice as likely as females to be victims of handgun crimes, and blacks three times as likely as whites.
â€¢ Young black males continued to be the population subgroup most vulnerable to handgun crime victimization. For males age 16-19 the rate for blacks (40 per 1,000 persons) was four times that of whites (10 per 1,000). For males age 20-24 the rate for blacks (29 per 1,000) was three times that of whites (9 per 1,000).
When Offenders Fired at Victims
â€¢ Offenders fired their weapon in 17 per cent of all nonfatal handgun crimes (or about two per cent of all violent crimes). In three per cent of handgun crimes, about 21,000 a year, the victim was wounded. (An additional annual average of 11,100 were victims of homicide by handgun). The offender shot at, but missed, the victim in 14 per cent of handgun crimes.
Self-defense with Firearms
â€¢ Thirty-eight per cent of the victims defending themselves with a firearm attacked the offender, and the others threatened the offender with the weapon.
â€¢ A fifth of the victims defending themselves with a firearm suffered an injury, compared to almost half of those who defended themselves with weapons other than a firearm or who had no weapon. (Care should be used in interpreting these data because many aspects of crimes-including victim and offender characteristics, crime circumstances, and offender intent-contribute to the victims' injury outcomes.)
â€¢ In most cases victims who used firearms to defend themselves or their property were confronted by offenders who were either unarmed or armed with weapons other than firearms. On average between 1987 and 1992, about 35 per cent (or 22,000 per year) of the violent crime victims defending themselves with a firearm faced an offender who also had a firearm. (Because the NCVS collects victimization data on police officers, its estimates of the use of firearms for self-defense are likely to include police use of firearms. Questionnaire revisions introduced in January 1993 will permit separate consideration of police and civilian firearm cases.)
Theft of Firearms
â€¢ Although most thefts of firearms (64%) occurred during household burglaries, a significant percentage (32%) occurred during larcenies. Loss of firearms through larceny was as likely to occur away from the victim's home as at or near the home. In 53 per cent of the firearms thefts, handguns were stolen.
This article is based on the Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data Brief "Guns and Crime," NCJ-147003. Copies of the report are available through the Alaska Justice Statistical Analysis Unit, Justice Center.