Firearms and fisticuffs: Region, race, and adversary effects on homicide and assault

Richard B. Felson, Paul Philippe Pare

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Analyses of the National Crime Victimization Survey and Supplemental Homicide Reports show that southern whites are much more likely than northern whites to be victims of gun homicides and assaults, but not other homicides and assaults. While blacks are more likely than whites to be victims of gun assaults (regardless of region), they have lower risks of assault victimization by unarmed offenders. The patterns are inconsistent with the subculture of violence thesis. In addition, incident analyses reveal that patterns of weapon use primarily reflect the race of the victim not the offender. Our results point to the importance of adversary effects: Offenders avoid assaulting blacks and southern whites unless they have guns because members of these groups are perceived as a greater threat. We suggest that the prevalence of armed assault in a community may lower the likelihood of unarmed assaults, and that honor culture explanations may be salvageable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)272-284
Number of pages13
JournalSocial Science Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science


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