Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 42, Issue 4, pp 681–690 | Cite as

Factors contributing to homicide-suicide: differences between firearm and non-firearm deaths

  • Laura M. Schwab-ReeseEmail author
  • Corinne Peek-Asa


The primary aim of this study is to determine the relationship between situational factors, method of death, and homicide-suicide deaths, specifically comparing method of death (firearm vs. nonfirearm) across these factors. We used data from the national violence death reporting system, a reporting system for violent deaths that links data from multiple sources. We included incidents that involved at least one homicide death followed by perpetrator suicide in the 42 states from 2013 to 2016. In addition to univariate analyses, we compared proportions of incidents that included a firearm to non-firearm incidents by incident, victim, and perpetrator characteristics. By far, firearm-related injuries were the most frequent cause of death for victims (85.6%) and for perpetrators (89.5%). Women, Hispanic individuals, individuals with a current mental health issue, and individuals with recent depression symptoms had lower odds of using a firearm, as did perpetrators who killed both an intimate partner and other family member. Individuals who had recently been in a fight had increased odds of using a firearm. Despite these differences, the overwhelming majority of homicide-suicide deaths involved firearms, which supports the need for adequate, appropriate firearm control measures to prevent these tragedies.


Homicide-suicide Homicide followed by suicide Firearms Context Situational factors 



Contributors to this report included participating Violent Death Reporting System states; participating state agencies, including state health departments, vital registrars’ offices, coroners’ and medical examiners’ offices, crime laboratories, and local and state law enforcement agencies; partner organizations, including the Safe States Alliance, National Violence Prevention Network, National Association of Medical Examiners, National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems (NAPHSIS), Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE), and Association of State and Territorial Health Officials; federal agencies, including the Department of Justice (Bureau of Justice Statistics and the Federal Bureau of Investigation), the Department of the Treasury (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms); the International Association of Chiefs of Police; other stakeholders, researchers, and foundations, including The Joyce Foundation, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and the National Center for Health Statistics, CDC. This research uses data from NVDRS, a surveillance system designed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. The findings are based, in part, on the contributions of the 42 funded states and territories that collected violent death data and the contributions of the states’ partners, including personnel from law enforcement, vital records, medical examiners/coroners, and crime laboratories. The analyses, results, and conclusions presented here represent those of the authors and not necessarily reflect those of CDC. Persons interested in obtaining data files from NVDRS should contact CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, 4770 Buford Hwy, NE, MS F-64, Atlanta, GA 30341-3717, (800) CDC-INFO (232-4636).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Laura M. Schwab-Reese and Corinne Peek-Asa declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and animal rights and Informed consent

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


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Health and KinesiologyPurdue UniversityLafayetteUSA
  2. 2.Department of Occupational and Environmental Health, College of Public HealthUniversity of IowaIowa CityUSA

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