The killing of 49 people in Orlando, Florida and the physical injury to 53 others has brought attention – once again – to guns in American society. In Massachusetts, which has some of the nation’s more restrictive gun laws, hospitals still see gunshot incidents. All hospital emergency departments are required to report patients treated for gunshot wounds and assault-related sharp instrument wounds to the state’s Weapon Related Injury Surveillance System (WRISS).
According to WRISS, in 2013, Massachusetts hospital EDs reported a total of 1,765 gunshot and stabbing incidents. Gunshot wounds accounted for 37% (652) of reports, while sharp instrument wounds accounted for 63% (1,113). While sharp instrument wounds are only reported for assault-related incidents, gunshot wounds are captured for all intents. Here is a breakdown of gunshot wounds by intent for 2013:
• 59% (386) were assault-related,
• 20% (128) were unintentional,
• 4% (26) were self-inflicted, and
• 14.5% (95) were of unknown intent.
Some notes to remember when reviewing the data: if a person dies by gunshot before first being treated in an ED that victim is not counted through WRISS. Most self-inflicted gunshots result in death and therefore the person is not transported to the ED and is not counted through WRISS.
Preliminary total counts (not yet vetted entirely by WRISS) for 2014 (1,635) and 2015 (1,440) are the lowest since statewide reporting began in 1994. WRISS staff says this may reflect real changes or reporting changes. Hospitals needing to order more WRISS reporting forms may contact WRISS Hospital Coordinator Laurie Jannelli at firstname.lastname@example.org
or (617) 624-5668.