Methods: A population based, cross-sectional design was used of all non-fatal domestic disputes between adult children and their parents to which police responded, in Philadelphia, PA, in 2013 (N = 6,248). Data were drawn from forms required to be completed by police officers when responding to domestic violence calls, regardless of whether an arrest was made. Bivariate and multivariate logistic regression was computed.
Results: Of the 6,248 incidents, 5,486 involved no weapon, 522 involved a bodily weapon, 190 involved a nongun external weapon, and 50 involved a gun. Guns were most often used to threaten victims (66%), with guns less often fired (6%) or used to pistol whip victims (4%). Compared to incidents involving a bodily weapon, when guns were involved, offenders were less likely to have pushed, grabbed, or punched the victim and victims were less likely to have visible injuries; however, offenders were more likely to have threatened victims and victims were more likely to be observed as frightened. Gun involvement was not less likely when any of following were noted: prior history of domestic violence, domestic violence reports previously made, a domestic violence restraining order of any type ever issued, and offender violating domestic violence restraining orders. When guns were involved, officers were more likely to check if a domestic violence restraining order was in place, if the offender had a permit to carry a firearm, and to collect firearm as evidence. When guns were involved, police officers were not more or less likely to provide victims with information regarding available services.
Conclusions and Implications: When guns are used nonfatally, evidence suggests they are primarily used to threaten victims, with physical violence most commonly not occurring. Findings suggest policies intending to prohibit firearm access by persons with misdemeanors of domestic violence or domestic violence restraining orders may not be effective among offenders of nonfatal adult child-parent violence; research needs to examine obstacles to effective implementation of said policies. Considerable improvement could be made in the frequency in which officers provide information to victims of nonfatal gun use regarding available services (i.e. domestic violence information card, victim assistance, advocate follow up, or domestic violence restraining orders). For example, officers provided victims of non-fatal gun use with information regarding restraining orders and victim assistance in only 42% of incidents. Social workers need to be aware of these findings as they are often providers of victim services. They need to advocate for improvement to be made regarding information provided to victims, as it is a matter of social justice.