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Working With Victims of Gun Violence

NCJ Number
Date Published
July 2001
16 pages
Publication Series
This bulletin highlights the issues raised and the recommendations developed by a roundtable discussion by experts on the effects of gun violence on individual victims, their families, and their communities, as well as how services to such victims can be improved.
A review of the characteristics of victims of gun violence notes that they are disproportionately young and predominantly male, according to 1997 data from the National Center for Health Statistics. Firearm homicide also disproportionately affects African-Americans, with approximately 52 percent of gun homicide victims being African-American. For every firearm death, there are approximately three nonfatal firearm injuries that have warranted hospital emergency treatment. There are numerous secondary victims in gun crime victimization, including parents, children, siblings, spouses, and others with a close relationship to a victim. Roundtable participants also considered how gun victims may be different from other crime victims and how these differences might affect the services they need or receive. The main themes that emerged from this discussion were the gun as the weapon of violence, the young age of the victims, the high cost of gun violence, and the media attention given to a small subset of gun crimes. This bulletin presents recommendations in each of these areas. In addition, the roundtable considered how programs funded under the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA), both compensation and direct services, are useful for gun violence victims. Two themes emerged: the need for ongoing prevention work in communities most at risk for gun violence and the need to improve victim services for young African-American victims of gun violence, since they are disproportionately affected by such violence. Recommendations regarding victim compensation pertain to caps and limits for mental health counseling, limits on medical expenses for catastrophic injuries, victim cooperation with law enforcement, and time limits for filing applications. Recommendations for direct victim services pertain to the holistic care for families of homicide victims, support groups for nonfatal gunshot victims, multidisciplinary hospital-based programs for adolescent gunshot victims, and school-based peer counseling for violence prevention. Suggestions are offered for the next steps in continuing the discourse on the issues addressed in the roundtable. 51 notes

Date Published: July 1, 2001