NVDRS Frequently Asked Questions

What to know

  • The following questions and answers are meant to provide information about the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS).


NVDRS defines a violent death as a death that results from the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or a group or community.

NVDRS collects information about violent deaths, including homicides, suicides, and deaths where individuals are killed by law enforcement acting in the line of duty. NVDRS also gathers information about unintentional firearm deaths, and deaths where the intent cannot be determined, that might have been due to violence.

Other data systems primarily count deaths and provide basic demographic information about decedents (people who have died). In contrast, NVDRS has the following features:

  • Gathers and links detailed investigative information from several sources, including law enforcement, coroner/medical examiners (toxicology), and death certificates. With this linked information, NVDRS is able to provide a more complete picture of the circumstances that may contribute to violent deaths.
  • Helps identify emerging issues by collecting extended demographic information on victims and suspects, injury characteristics, and circumstances.
  • Combines data about deaths that occurred during the same violent event to help identify circumstances of multiple homicides or homicides followed by the suicide of the homicide suspect.
  • Connects deaths that are related but occur outside the same violent event, such as related suicides or multiple victims of the same suspect over a longer time period (e.g., serial homicide).
  • Collects information on suspects, including the relationship of the victim to the suspect to better characterize homicides.

State health departments (or their bona fide agents) that participate in NVDRS submit information to CDC. No personally identifying information, including names, addresses, and dates of birth, is submitted to CDC. Participating states and territories enter data into a secure web-based system. Local laws that protect other types of health department records, such as communicable disease records, also apply to NVDRS data.

NVDRS is operated in compliance with the National Institute of Standards and Technology Special Publication 800-53, "Security and Privacy Controls for Federal Information Systems and Organizations." The NVDRS System Security Plan is reviewed annually by CDC's Office of the Chief Information Security Officer, which also conducts continuous monitoring of the NVDRS servers and databases.

There have been no reported data breaches or compromises of the confidentiality or security of the system.

All 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico submit data into NVDRS.

State laws require that death certificates be filed for all deaths and that violent deaths, including homicides, suicides, and deaths of undetermined intent, be reviewed by a coroner or medical examiner. States that receive funding for NVDRS agree to report de-identified data to CDC.

CDC's Injury Center distributes information from NVDRS at the national level in both summary and topic-specific reports.

NVDRS data are stored in an incident-based database. Descriptive data can be accessed free of charge from the Web-based Injury Statistics and Query System (WISQARS). More detailed data from NVDRS is available through the NVDRS Restricted Access Database (RAD). NVDRS RAD is a de-identified, multi-year, multi-state, case-level dataset comprised of hundreds of unique variables. The data set is available to researchers who meet specific criteria. The RAD database also includes short narratives to describe violent deaths, including descriptions abstracted from law enforcement and coroner/medical examiner reports. There is no cost for accessing the NVDRS RAD. To learn more about these data, eligibility requirements, and the application process, please visit our Data Access webpage.

NVDRS data increase our knowledge about where violent deaths occur, who is most at risk, and the factors that contribute to violent deaths. These data provide the foundation for building successful strategies for preventing violence so that all communities can be safe and free from violence and people can live to their full potential. To learn more, read the NVDRS Impact Examples.

CDC is taking the following steps to ensure that NVDRS data inform violence prevention activities:

  • Raising awareness about NVDRS data and promoting its use at the national level.
  • Providing resources to states and jurisdictions to monitor and report their data.
  • Enhancing the reporting platform to increase efficiency, timeliness of data entry, and consistency.

Mechanisms of injury

NVDRS collects data on all mechanisms leading to fatal injury, including the following:

  • Firearm: method that uses a powder charge to fire a projectile.
  • Sharp instrument: knife, razor, machete, or pointed instrument (e.g., chisel or broken glass).
  • Blunt instrument: club, bat, rock, or brick.
  • Poisoning: street drug, alcohol, pharmaceutical, carbon monoxide, gas, rat poison, or insecticide.
  • Hanging/strangulation/suffocation: hanging by the neck, manual strangulation, or plastic bag over the head.
  • Personal weapons: hands, fists, or feet.
  • Fall: being pushed or jumping.
  • Drowning: inhalation of liquid in bathtub, lake, or other source of water/liquid.
  • Fire/burn: inhalation of smoke or the direct effects of fire or chemical burns.
  • Shaking: shaking a baby, child, or adult.
  • Motor vehicle: car, bus, or motorcycle.
  • Other transport vehicle: train or airplane.
  • Intentional neglect: starvation, lack of adequate supervision, or withholding of health care.
  • Other: any method other than those listed above.
  • Unknown: method not reported or not known.

NVDRS collects additional details on firearms and poisons, such as the type of firearm or substance involved. These data are obtained from law enforcement, coroner/medical examiner, and toxicology reports.

NVDRS collects information on unintentional firearm deaths but not other types of unintentional deaths. The primary reason for this is so that NVDRS can provide a more complete picture of firearm-related injury deaths in the country. These data have allowed researchers to examine the classifications of assault-related, suicide-related, undetermined, and unintentional firearm deaths, which can vary across jurisdictions where these deaths occur.

NVDRS is an incident-based system, which means it is able to link deaths that occurred during the same violent event to help identify the circumstances of multiple homicides (such as mass shootings) or homicides followed by suicides.

Circumstances of violent death

NVDRS seeks to address the reasons that violent deaths occurred (the “why”) by understanding the “who, when, where, and how” of those deaths. Circumstances are recorded by law enforcement and coroners/medical examiners and NVDRS integrates this information so it can be used by states and communities to better understand the context of violent deaths.

Information about circumstances is important to help inform prevention activities and is gathered from witnesses, family, friends, and other informants by death investigators. See below for a more detailed list of the circumstance information that is included.

Circumstances preceding fatal injury, by manner of death — National Violent Death Reporting System, 2022

*Indicates Crisis Information Collected

Suicide/undetermined intent

  • History of suicidal thoughts or plans.
  • History of suicide attempts.
  • History of Traumatic Brain Injury.
  • Recent disclosed suicidal thoughts or intent.
  • Disclosed suicidal intent to whom.
  • Person left a suicide note.
  • Contributing criminal legal problem.*
  • Civil legal problems.*
  • Physical health problem.*
  • Job problem.*
  • Financial problem.*
  • School problem.*
  • Eviction/loss of home.*
  • Suicide of a friend or family member.*
  • Other death of friend or family.
  • Anniversary of traumatic event.
  • Intimate partner problem.*
  • Caregiver burden.
  • History of non-suicidal self-injury/self-harm.

Homicide/legal intervention

  • Intimate partner violence related.
  • Stalking.*
  • Prostitution or sex trafficking.*
  • Gang related.
  • Justifiable self-defense/law enforcement.
  • Victim was a police officer on duty.
  • Victim was a bystander.
  • Random violence.
  • Victim was intervener assisting crime victim.
  • Victim used a weapon.
  • Mercy killing.
  • Hate crime.
  • Jealousy (lover's triangle).*
  • Brawl.
  • Walk-by assault.
  • Drive-by shooting (homicide only).
  • Drug Involvement.
  • Caregiver use of corporal punishment contributed to the death of the child victim.

All manners of death (except unintentional firearm deaths)

  • Current depressed mood.
  • Current diagnosed mental health problem.*
  • Type of first mental illness diagnosed.
  • Type of second metal illness diagnosed.
  • Other mental health diagnosis.
  • Current treatment for mental illness/ substance abuse.
  • Ever treated for mental illness.
  • Alcohol problem.*
  • Other substance problem.*
  • Other addiction.*
  • Terrorist attack.
  • Family relationship problem.*
  • Family stressor.
  • Other relationship problem.*
  • Abuse and neglect led to death.
  • History of abuse as a child.
  • Perpetrator of violence in the past month.
  • Victim of violence in the past month.
  • Prior Child Protective Services report on the child victim's household.
  • Substance abuse in child victim's household.
  • Living transition/loss of independent living.
  • Household known to local authorities.
  • Victim known to authorities.
  • Non-adherence to mental health/substance abuse treatment.
  • Physical fight (mutual between two people).
  • Argument.
  • Timing of the most recent argument.
  • Precipitated by another crime.
  • Nature of first other crime.
  • Nature of second other crime.
  • First other crime in progress.
  • Circumstances known.
  • Other circumstance.
  • Crisis in past two weeks.
  • Disaster exposure.*

Unintentional firearm death

  • Hunting.
  • Target shooting.
  • Self-defensive shooting.
  • Celebratory firing.
  • Loading/ unloading gun.
  • Cleaning gun.
  • Showing gun to others.
  • Playing with gun.
  • Other context of injury.
  • Thought safety was engaged.
  • Thought unloaded, magazine disengaged.
  • Thought gun was unloaded, other.
  • Unintentionally pulled trigger.
  • Bullet ricochet.
  • Gun defect or malfunction.
  • Fired while holstering/un-holstering.
  • Dropped gun.
  • Fired while operating safety/lock.
  • Gun mistaken for a toy.
  • Other mechanism of injury.