Objective—To characterize non-fatal firearm related injuries other than gunshot wounds (non-GSWs) treated in hospital emergency departments in the United States that occur during routine gun handling and recreational use as well as violence related use of a firearm.
Methods—Cases were identified through the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS). During the study period, 1 January 1993 through 31 December 1996, NEISS consisted of a nationally representative sample of 91 hospitals in the United States having at least six beds and providing 24 hour emergency services.
Results—An estimated 65 374, or an average of 16 300 per year, non-fatal, non-GSWs were treated in American hospital emergency departments during the four year study period. Fifty seven per cent of all the non-fatal, non-GSWs were violence related, most of which involved being struck by a firearm. The majority of unintentional non-fatal, non-GSWs were self inflicted and occurred during routine gun handling or recreational use of a firearm; 43% of these injuries resulted from gun recoils.
Conclusions—Non-fatal, non-GSWs make a notable contribution to the public health burden of firearm related injuries. Firearm related injury prevention programs should focus on not only the reduction of gunshot wounds but also the reduction of unintentional and violence related non-GSWs.