Gunshot homicides in Denmark 1992–2016

Abstract

The majority of homicides in the world are caused by firearms and a good understanding of gunshot wounds is important for the forensic pathologist. We have analyzed all 315 homicides by gunshots in Denmark during 1992–2016 with focus on information relevant to forensic pathologists. Of the 1417 homicides in Denmark in 1992–2016, 315 (22.2%) had gunshot trauma as the primary homicide method. During 1992–2016, there has been a significant decrease in the number of gunshot homicides overall, of homicides committed with hunting weapons, and of domestic gunshot homicides. Most victims (70.5%) and offenders (93.7% of homicides with known offenders) were males. Male victims were significantly younger than female victims. Most victims were killed with handguns (43.8%) or shotguns (41.0%). Compared to all other weapons, the victims killed with shotguns had fewer entry wounds, a higher New Injury Severity Score (NISS), and a higher proportion of contact/close-range entry wounds. The head (58.1%) and thorax (46.7%) were often injured, with injuries to the head being more common in contact/close-range entry wounds. The results show that gunshot injuries in homicides are different from suicides and accidents and clearly are affected by the homicide type, the sex of the victim, and the weapon used and that these entities are intertwined. Our findings provide an evidence-based foundation for use in death investigations and for policy development in the area of interpersonal violence.

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Funding

Asser Hedegård Thomsen has received funding from Brødrene Hartmanns Fond (A26707).

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Thomsen, A.H., Leth, P.M., Hougen, H.P. et al. Gunshot homicides in Denmark 1992–2016. Int J Legal Med (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00414-021-02548-5

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Keywords

  • Homicide
  • Gunshot injuries
  • Firearms
  • Forensic autopsy
  • Gun violence
  • Interpersonal violence