The study calculated the frequency of stray-bullet shootings during an 11-month period – a phenomenon, according to researchers, that resulted in at least 317 injuries.
Garen Wintemute, professor of emergency medicine and director of the Violence Prevention Research Program at UC Davis conducted the research, which was partially funded by the California Wellness Foundation and the Eli and Edythe L. Broad Foundation.
Using data collected from news alert services such as Google Alerts, in addition to GunPolicy.org archives, Wintemute and his colleagues tracked stories containing the term “stray bullet” for nearly one year, ultimately counting 284 shootings in which people were injured or killed by stray bullets.
The study defines a stray-bullet shooting any instance in which a bullet escapes the immediate scene of the shooting and results in the injury of at least one person either by directly striking the victim or through associated “secondary mechanisms,” such as injuries sustained from glass shattered by a bullet.
According to the study, 81 percent of victims injured in the stray-bullet shootings included in their research were either unaware of the events or totally disconnected from the events that resulted in gunfire. Stray bullets killed 65 people during the research period, with more than 84 percent of the victims dying the day they were shot and some 27.7 percent dying at the scene of the shooting.
Wintemute encourages “hot-spot policing” – increased enforcement of firearm laws in areas with high levels of gun violence – as a means of curbing stray-bullet shootings.
“Wearing body armor or taking other extreme protective measures is just not practical on a widespread scale, so we need to look at other ways to help communities feel safe from such events,” he said. “Given that these stray-bullet shootings are a byproduct of gun violence in general, it’s plausible that if you prevent the violence, you’ll prevent the stray-bullet shootings.”