Semiautomatic Rifles Contribute to More Gun Deaths, Injuries

Study fills in data gaps to inform gun policy debate.

Brigham leaders and staff advocate for addressing gun violence as a public health issue.

Researchers at the Brigham analyzed FBI data from more than 200 active shooter incidents in the United States and found the number of wounded or killed victims doubled when a semiautomatic rifle was used instead of other types of guns.

The researchers also found that once someone was shot, their chance of dying was 44 percent regardless of the type of weapon used. However, automatic weapons increase the likelihood for more people at the scene to become victims.

“In order to inform the debate on semiautomatic rifles, commonly referred to as assault rifles, we needed to understand their lethality,” says Eric Goralnick, MD, MS, medical director of Emergency Preparedness and a leader of the study. “We chose active shooter incidents because a national firearm injury database is currently unavailable.”

Goralnick notes this lack of data, including information on specific injuries, makes it difficult to fully explain the association between guns and public health. Given this, the study suggests that creating a national centralized database of firearm incidents could inform the debate on a renewed assault weapons ban.

Source: de Jager, Goralnick, McCarty et al., JAMA, 2018.