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Firearm Related Deaths in Australia, 1991-2001

NCJ Number
Jenny Mouzos; Catherine Rushforth
Date Published
November 2003
6 pages
This document examines the use of firearms to inflict fatal injury in Australia between 1991 and 2001.
The focus is on five main types of fatal injury: suicide, homicide, accidents, legal intervention (deaths as a result of law enforcement officers performing their duties), and those deaths classified as undetermined by the coroner (cases in which it was unclear whether the injury was purposely or accidentally inflicted). There was a 47 percent decrease in the number of firearm related deaths in Australia between 1991 and 2001, with a fall in the number of suicides accounting for the largest part of that decrease. Nine out of 10 firearm related deaths involved males. A higher proportion of homicides involved a female victim (33 percent), compared to firearm related suicides and accidents where less than 10 percent involved the death of a female. Those least likely to die as a result of a firearm related injury were persons under the age of 15 years. Males and females that suffered a fatal firearms injury tended to follow a similar age distribution, with persons aged between 24 and 34 years accounting for the largest number of firearm related deaths. In 1991, males aged between 15 and 24 years had the highest risk of firearm related fatal injury, whereas in 2001 males aged 65 years and older had the highest risk. Most of firearm related deaths were committed with a hunting rifle, although there has been an increase in the use of handguns. The introduction of a new policy directed at limiting the availability of certain types of handguns in Australia raises additional research questions. More detailed data will be required to monitor whether the new policy has any impact on the use of handguns in crime and to inflict lethal injury, and whether the prohibited types of handguns are found to be misused less often. 4 tables, 7 figures, 7 references