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Hispanics and Firearms Violence

Section One: The National Perspective

Hispanics are far less likely than blacks or whites to own guns. Only 11 percent of Hispanics own guns, compared to 16 percent of blacks, and 27 percent of whites.4 (See Chart 2) Yet Hispanics are murdered with firearms at rates5 second only to blacks. (See Chart 3)

Chart 2: Data from Philip J. Cook and Jens Ludwig, Guns in America: Results of a Comprehensive National Survey on Firearms Ownership and Use (Washington DC: Police Foundation, 1996), 33.

Chart 3: Data from Office of Statistics and Programming, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, CDC (WISQUARS), 1990-1997.

Firearms homicide is the leading cause of firearm-related death for Hispanics. (See Chart 4) Homicide, both firearm- and non-firearm related, is the seventh leading cause of death among Hispanics and is the second leading cause of death for Hispanic youths 15 to 24 years old.6 Among all Hispanic homicide victims, 72 percent were killed with a firearm.7

Chart 4: Data from Office of Statistics and Programming, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, CDC (WISQUARS), 1990-1997.

Criminal Victimization

Hispanic targets of violent crimeb are more likely than any other racial or ethnic group to be victimized by offenders wielding a weapon. Hispanic and black robbery victims were more likely to face an offender with a weapon of any type (57 percent for each group) than were white victims (43 percent). Hispanic robbery victims faced an offender armed with a gun 19 percent of the time, while only 16 percent of white robbery victims were confronted by an offender with a gun. (See Chart 5)

Chart 5: Data from Lisa D. Bastian, "Hispanic Victims," Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report (January 1990): 7.

Hispanic victims of aggravated assault8 almost always faced an offender with a weapon (97 percent of cases). For all Hispanic victims of aggravated assault, 32 percent faced an offender with a gun.

Nearly half of all Hispanic victims of violent crime faced an offender with a weapon, with nearly 15 percent facing an offender armed with a gun.9 (See Chart 6)

Chart 6: Data from Lisa D. Bastian, "Hispanic Victims," Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report (January 1990): 7.

Hispanics are more likely than those in other racial/ethnic groups to be victims of violent crimes involving strangers. Hispanics fell victim to strangers in 65 percent of violent crime incidents, compared to 58 percent of white victims, and 54 percent of black victims.10 (See Chart 7)

Chart 7: Data from Lisa D. Bastian, "Hispanic Victims," Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report (January 1990): 6.

Domestic Violence

According to the 1996 Statistical Handbook of Violence in America, Hispanic women in intimate relationships suffered the highest rate of domestic violence�181 per 1,000 couples. In comparison, white women had a domestic violence rate of 117 per 1,000, and black women had a rate of 166 per 1,000.11 Family and intimate homicides are often preceded by an escalating pattern of domestic violence. Recognizing that the presence of a firearm in the home is a key contributor to the escalation of nonfatal spousal abuse to homicide, the widespread occurrence of domestic violence within the Hispanic community is an important marker for possible lethal violence.12

Chart 8: Data from Adam Dobrin et al., Statistical Handbook on Violence in America (Phoenix: The Oryx Press, 1996): 164.

Nonfatal Firearm Injuries

It is estimated that, for every firearm fatality, there are nearly three nonfatal firearm injuries.13 In 1997 Hispanics had a nonfatal firearm-related injury rate of 41.3 per 100,000, compared to 8.7 for whites and 87.5 for blacks.14 (See Chart 9) That year, Hispanics had a total firearm injury (fatal and nonfatal) rate 2.8 times that of whites. This information is further supported by a 1996 New England Journal of Medicine study which found that Hispanics were shot (both fatally and nonfatally) at a rate 2.6 times higher than non-Hispanic whites.15

Chart 9: Data from "Nonfatal and Fatal Firearm-Related Injuries�United States, 1993-1997," Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 48, no. 45 (1999): 1029-1034.


In 1997 firearms were used in 52 percent of Hispanic male suicides.16 The 1997 age-adjusted firearms suicide rate for Hispanic males was 5.53 per 100,000. Firearms were used in only a third of Hispanic female suicides, for a 1997 age-adjusted firearms suicide rate of 0.59 per 100,000.17

Chart 10: Data from Office of Statistics and Programming, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (WISQUARS), 1997.

The preceding federal data offers only a glimpse of Hispanics and firearms violence. These facts and figures do not tell the whole story. Recognizing the lack of available in-depth information on a national scale, we now look to two states and one city to provide smaller, but far more detailed, pictures. The following three snapshots�California, Texas, and Chicago�use data gathered by these three distinct geographic areas to offer a more complete understanding of firearms violence within these Hispanic communities.

b) In 1998, Hispanics had a dramatically lower rate of rape/sexual assault (the Hispanic rate was half that of non-Hispanics), and a slightly lower rate of assault than non-Hispanics. However, Hispanic households had significantly higher rates of property crime, burglary, and theft than non-Hispanic households, Callie Marie Rennison, Criminal Victimization 1998 (Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1999).

Go to Section Two: Regional Snapshots

Back to Hispanics and Firearms Violence Table of Contents






 All contents � 2001 Violence Policy Center


The Violence Policy Center is a national non-profit educational foundation that conducts research on violence in America and works to develop violence-reduction policies and proposals. The Center examines the role of firearms in America, conducts research on firearms violence, and explores new ways to decrease firearm-related death and injury.