Gunshot homicides in Denmark 1992–2016


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.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7

Data Availability

Not applicable.

Code availability

Not applicable.


  1. 1.

    (UNODC) TUNOoDaC. Global study on homicide 2019. Vienna: The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) 2019

  2. 2.

    Mc Evoy C, Hideg G (2017) Global Violent Deaths 2017: Time to Decide. Small Arms Survey Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies Geneva: small arms survey

  3. 3.

    Global Burden of Disease Injury C, Naghavi M, Marczak LB, Kutz M, Shackelford KA, Arora M et al (2018) Global mortality from firearms, 1990-2016. JAMA 320(8):792–814.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Thomsen AH, Leth PM, Hougen HP, Villesen P, Brink O (2019) Homicide in Denmark 1992-2016. Forensic Sci Int Synergy 1:275–282.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Hougen HP, Rogde S, Poulsen K (2000) Homicide by firearms in two Scandinavian capitals. Am J Forensic Med Pathol 21(3):281–286

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Denton JS, Segovia A, Filkins JA (2006) Practical pathology of gunshot wounds. Arch Pathol Lab Med 130(9):1283–1289.[1283:PPOGW]2.0.CO;2

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Molina DK, DiMaio V, Cave R (2013) Gunshot wounds: a review of firearm type, range, and location as pertaining to manner of death. Am J Forensic Med Pathol 34(4):366–371.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Cave R, DiMaio VJ, Molina DK (2014) Homicide or suicide? Gunshot wound interpretation: a Bayesian approach. Am J Forensic Med Pathol 35(2):118–123.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Ganpat SM, Granath S, Hagstedt J, Kivivuori J (2011) Homicide in Finland, the Netherlands and Sweden: a first study on the European homicide monitor data

  10. 10.

    Gennarelli TA, Wodzin E (2008) Association for the advancement of automotive M. Abbreviated injury scale 2005: update 2008. Barrington, Ill.: Association for the Advancement of Automative Medicine

  11. 11.

    Thomsen AH, Villesen P, Brink O, Leth PM, Hougen HP (2020) Improved medical treatment could explain a decrease in homicides with a single stab wound. Forensic Sci Med Pathol 16:415–422.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Thomsen AH, Hougen HP, Villesen P, Brink O, Leth PM (2020) Sharp force homicide in Denmark 1992-2016. J Forensic Sci 65(3):833–839.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Rowell SE, Barbosa RR, Diggs BS, Schreiber MA, Trauma Outcomes G, Holcomb JB et al (2011) Specific abbreviated injury scale values are responsible for the underestimation of mortality in penetrating trauma patients by the injury severity score. J Trauma 71(2 Suppl 3):S384–S388.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Stevenson M, Segui-Gomez M, Lescohier I, Di Scala C, McDonald-Smith G (2001) An overview of the injury severity score and the new injury severity score. Inj Prev 7(1):10–13.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Knight B, Saukko PJ (2016) Knight’s forensic pathology, 4th edn. CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group, Boca Raton

    Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Junuzovic M, Rietz A, Jakobsson U, Midlov P, Eriksson A (2019) Firearm deaths in Sweden. Eur J Pub Health 29(2):351–358.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Santaella-Tenorio J, Cerda M, Villaveces A, Galea S (2016) What Do We know about the association between firearm legislation and firearm-related injuries? Epidemiol Rev 38(1):140–157.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Doucette ML, Crifasi CK, Frattaroli S (2019) Right-to-carry laws and firearm workplace homicides: a longitudinal analysis (1992-2017). Am J Public Health 109(12):1747–1753.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Lee LK, Fleegler EW, Farrell C, Avakame E, Srinivasan S, Hemenway D, Monuteaux MC (2017) Firearm laws and firearm homicides: a systematic review. JAMA Intern Med 177(1):106–119.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Jeffery A, Hulewicz B, Langlois N, Little D, Ellis P (2007) Firearm fatalities in Western Sydney 1994-2003. Forensic Sci Med Pathol 3(4):252–257.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Hepburn LM, Hemenway D (2004) Firearm availability and homicide: a review of the literature. Aggress Violent Behav 9(4):417–440.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Siegel M, Ross CS, King C 3rd (2013) The relationship between gun ownership and firearm homicide rates in the United States, 1981-2010. Am J Public Health 103(11):2098–2105.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Siegel M, Negussie Y, Vanture S, Pleskunas J, Ross CS, King C 3rd (2014) The relationship between gun ownership and stranger and nonstranger firearm homicide rates in the United States, 1981-2010. Am J Public Health 104(10):1912–1919.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Ptaszynska-Sarosiek I, Filimoniuk K, Cwalina U, Niemcunowicz-Janica A (2016) Review of fatal gunshot cases in the files of the Department of Forensic Medicine in Bialystok, Poland, in the years 1964-2015. Arch Med Sadowej Kryminol 66(4):211–219.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Chmieliauskas S, Laima S, Fomin D, Jurolaic E, Jasulaitis A, Stasiuniene J, Characiejus D, Utkus A (2019) Homicide victims and mechanisms in Lithuania from 2004 to 2016. J Forensic Legal Med 65:27–31.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Khoshnood A (2019) Holding Sweden hostage: firearm-related violence. Forensic Sci Res 4(1):88–93.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    Sollid SJ, Rimstad R, Rehn M, Nakstad AR, Tomlinson AE, Strand T et al (2012) Oslo government district bombing and Utoya island shooting July 22, 2011: the immediate prehospital emergency medical service response. Scand J Trauma Resusc Emerg Med 20:3.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  28. 28.

    Tresson P, Touma J, Gaudric J, Pellenc Q, Le Roux M, Pierret C et al (2017) Management of vascular trauma during the paris terrorist attack of november 13, 2015. Ann Vasc Surg 40:44–49.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  29. 29.

    Kalesan B, Lagast K, Villarreal M, Pino E, Fagan J, Galea S (2017) School shootings during 2013-2015 in the USA. Inj Prev 23(5):321–327.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  30. 30.

    Gjertsen F, Leenaars A, Vollrath ME (2013) Mixed impact of firearms restrictions on fatal firearm injuries in males: a national observational study. Int J Environ Res Public Health 11(1):487–506.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  31. 31.

    Thomsen JL, Albrektsen SB (1991) An investigation of the pattern of firearms fatalities before and after the introduction of new legislation in Denmark. Med Sci Law 31:162–166

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    Justitsministeriet. Danish Firearm Act (2019)

  33. 33.

    Molina DK, Wood LE, DiMaio VJ (2007) Shotgun wounds: a review of range and location as pertaining to manner of death. Am J Forensic Med Pathol 28(2):99–102.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  34. 34.

    Molina DK, DiMaio VJ, Cave R (2013) Handgun wounds: a review of range and location as pertaining to manner of death. Am J Forensic Med Pathol 34(4):342–347.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  35. 35.

    Druid H (1997) Site of entrance wound and direction of bullet path in firearm fatalities as indicators of homicide versus suicide. Forensic Sci Int 88(2):147–162

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  36. 36.

    Karger B, Billeb E, Koops E, Brinkmann B (2002) Autopsy features relevant for discrimination between suicidal and homicidal gunshot injuries. Int J Legal Med 116:273–278

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  37. 37.

    Maghin F, Antonietti A, Farina D, Benedetti P, Verzeletti A (2019) A case of suicide by double gunshot wounds to the head: the ability to act after the first shot. Int J Legal Med 133(5):1469–1476.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  38. 38.

    Castro-Espicalsky TL, Costa ST, Santiago BM, Freire AR, Daruge Junior E, Prado FB et al (2020) Craniofacial injuries by firearms projectiles: an analysis of 868 deaths in the five regions of Brazil. J Forensic Legal Med 69:101888.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. 39.

    Stefanopoulos PK, Mikros G, Pinialidis DE, Oikonomakis IN, Tsiatis NE, Janzon B (2019) Wound ballistics of military rifle bullets: An update on controversial issues and associated misconceptions. J Trauma Acute Care Surg 87(3):690–698.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  40. 40.

    Maiden NR, Hiss J, Gips H, Hocherman G, Levin N, Kosachevsky O, Vinokurov A, Zelkowicz A, Byard RW (2016) An analysis of the characteristics of thoracic and abdominal injuries due to gunshot homicides in Israel. J Forensic Sci 61(1):87–92.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  41. 41.

    Karger B, Billeb E, Koops E (2002) Accidental firearm fatalities. Forensic and preventive implications. Int J Legal Med 116(6):350–353.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  42. 42.

    Suwanjutha T (1988) Direction, site and the muzzle target distance of bullet in the head and neck at close range as an indication of suicide or homicide. Forensic Sci Int 37(3):223–229.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references


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

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Asser H. Thomsen.

Ethics declarations

Ethics approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Consent to participate

Not applicable.

Consent for publication

Not applicable.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no competing interests.

Additional information

Publisher’s note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary Information


(DOCX 802 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Thomsen, A.H., Leth, P.M., Hougen, H.P. et al. Gunshot homicides in Denmark 1992–2016. Int J Legal Med (2021).

Download citation


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