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Terrorist attacks involving firearms more likely to be lethal than other types of attacks

New background report examines use of firearms in terrorist attacks

Despite the potential for terrorist attacks involving explosives to cause exceptionally high numbers of casualties, in general, attacks involving firearms were more likely to be lethal, according to a new background report by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. START researchers examined the use of firearms in terrorist attacks in the United States and abroad. 

For example, while attacks involving arson or explosives may be intended to cause only property damage or human casualties, firearms are more often used in attacks aimed at causing human casualties.

  • In the United States between 1970 and 2014, the average percentage of terrorist attacks that were lethal was 4.3 percent if the attack did not involve firearms and 40.2 percent if the attack did involve firearms.
  • In other countries, the difference was somewhat less pronounced; on average 28.4 percent of attacks that did not involve firearms were lethal, while 70.4 percent of attacks that did involve firearms were lethal.

The background report also examines U.S. terrorist attacks, weapons used, locations of attacks involving firearms, and perpetrators of attacks involving firearms.

The background report, “Firearms in Terrorism the United States 1970-2014,” is available on the START website here.