Volume 26, Issue 2 (April 1981)
Use of Photoluminescence to Investigate Apparent Suicides by Firearms
A photoluminescence technique, which detects lead and antimony in gunshot residue, was evaluated for use in investigations of apparent gunshot suicides. The study was conducted in conjunction with forensic science laboratories in five U.S. cities. Samples were collected by the adhesive lift method from the backs of the hands of 67 gunshot suicide victims, 41 subjects who died of other causes, and 31 live subjects with high occupational exposure to lead and antimony. Tentative simultaneous threshold levels of 0.85μg for lead and 0.01 μg for antimony were selected as criteria for presuming the presence of gunshot residue on samples from the hands of these suicide victims. Although blood decreases the detectability of lead and antimony in the samples, 48% of the suicide cases involving handguns other than .22 revolvers exceeded the threshold levels for both lead and antimony. Methods are suggested for eliminating the effects of blood, which should significantly increase the success rate for cases involving these guns. A much lower success rate was obtained for cases involving .22 revolvers and long guns, as expected from the sparse amounts of residue found in previous test firings of these guns.