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Public Health Rep. 1996 Nov-Dec;111(6):482-93.

When bullets don't kill.


The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has created the first statewide surveillance system in the nation that tracks both fatal and nonfatal weapon injuries. The authors summarize findings for 1994 and discuss their public health implication. Suicides were the leading cause of firearm fatality, while self-inflicted injuries accounted for only 3% of nonfatal firearm injuries. Risk of violence-related injuries varied dramatically across the state. In Boston, one in 38 black male teenagers ages 15 to 19 was shot or stabbed in 1994, in contrast to one in 56,000 for white females of any age living in suburban communities. In Boston, non-Hispanic black male teenagers were at 41 times higher risk than white male teenagers for gun injuries. Shooting homicides increased sixfold during the late 1980s among black Boston males, while homicides by other means remained stable. In other Massachusetts cities, injury rates were higher among 20 to 24-year-olds than among teenagers, and, in some areas, incidence rates were as high or higher among Hispanic males than among non-Hispanic black males. Between 1985 and 1994, the proportion of firearm injuries caused by semiautomatic pistols increased from 23% to 52%, according to police ballistics data.

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