Do Weapons Increase or Decrease the Probability of Injury During Assault: An Offender Based Analysis

Christopher A. Kierkus, University at Albany
Alan J. Lizotte, University at Albany

Previous research has shown that the use of weapons during assaults decreases the probability of injury but increases the chances that those injuries will be serious. Armed offenders can gain compliance by threatening the use of force while unarmed offenders usually have to hurt their victims to gain compliance. However, if an armed offender actually uses force, the consequences for the victim tend to be more serious. These findings are based primarily on victimization studies. To date, only one study has investigated this issue using offender data. The differences between the victim's and the offender's perspectives are important. Offenders who are secretly carrying weapons may behave differently than offenders who are unarmed. However, victimization surveys have no way of distinguishing between these groups. The present study will investigate the relationship between the presence of a weapon during an assault and the probability of injury from the offfender's perspective. Initial analysis of 1,221 incidents from the Rochester Youth Development Study shows that offenders armed with firearms, knives and clubs are less likely to injure victims; however, those armed with firearms and clubs are more likely to inflict severe injuries. These relationships hold controlling for a large number of potential confounding factors.

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Updated 05/20/2006