A PATCHWORK OF DATA SETS

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To study firearms and violence, researchers and policy makers rely on a

patchwork of data sources collected for more general purposes of monitoring

the nation’s health and crime problems. No authoritative source of

information exists to provide representative, accurate, complete, timely,

and detailed data on the incidence and characteristics of firearm-related

violence in the United States. Rather, there are many different sources of

data that researchers use to draw inferences about the empirical questions

of interest. Some information on firearms and violence is found in probability

samples of well-defined populations, such as the National Crime Victimization

Survey (NCVS) and the General Social Survey (GSS). Other information

comes from administrative data, such as the Uniform Crime Reports

(UCR) and the trace data of the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms

(BATF). Still other information comes from case studies, social experiments,

and other one-time surveys conducted on special populations. Table

2-1 lists characteristics of some of the commonly used data sources.

Perhaps because these data sets serve many purposes, the strengths and

limitations of each source have been generally well documented in the

literature.1 This section provides a brief description of the some of the key

data sources used in the research literature on firearms injury and violence

and discussed in the report. This summary is not an exhaustive treatment of

the data sources listed in Table 2-1, nor is it complete in its assessment of

the specific data sources considered. Rather, it is intended to provide relevant

background material on the key data.