Retrospective accounts of violent events by gun offenders

Mark Pogrebin*, Paul Stretesky, N. Prabha Unnithan, Gerry Venor

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


Mills (1940) argues that there is a sharp distinction between "causes" and "explanations" or "accounts". In this study we employ Scott and Lyman's (1968) classic formulation of accounts to examine the narrative explanations gun offenders provide for engaging in their violent acts. These narrative accounts illustrate how inmates attempt to preserve a conventional sense of self. Our observations are drawn from in-depth interviews with a random sample of Colorado inmates convicted of gun-related violent crimes. We find that inmates provide accounts in the form of justifications and excuses. Appeals to defeasibility (excuse) and denial of victim (justification) are the most common types of accounts inmates use to explain their violent behavior. We also find that inmates who report that their victim deserved the injury rarely offer additional accounts for their violence. In contrast, inmates who claim that their violent behavior was beyond their control tend to offer additional accounts in the form of justifications and excuses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)479-501
Number of pages23
JournalDeviant Behavior
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2006


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