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Accidental Shooting Statistics: A Review of Unintentional Firearm Deaths from 1979-2024

The pro-gun community has put a lot of time and effort into preventing accidental shootings in America. Unlike other firearm-related incidents, accidental shootings are a category that the pro-gun community has notably influenced over the years.

Despite sensationalized headlines and ongoing advocacy for new legislation, it’s crucial to recognize that accidental shootings are exceedingly rare occurrences. Even in households with unsecured firearms and children, such tragedies are infrequent.

However, it’s essential to acknowledge that these accidents are entirely preventable. The following sections delve into various aspects of accidental shootings in the United States.

Key Points:

  • In 2022, less than 1% (461) of the 48,222 firearm deaths in the U.S. were attributed to accidental shootings.

  • 2.3% of the 30,303 unintentional firearm-related injuries were fatal in 2021.

  • Of the 231,878 firearm-related offenses reported to the FBI in 2022, only 721 were accidental shootings (0.3%).

  • There is no correlation between permitless carry and accidental shootings; only four of the five top states for accidental shootings and all five of the bottom states have permitless carry.

  • Only 0.2% of all accidental injury-related deaths in the U.S. can be attributed to firearms.

Note: 30,303 injuries include any hospital visit involving a firearm injury.

Accidental Shooting Key Points

Accidental Gunshots Per Year

In total, 673 individuals in the U.S. were victims of an accidental shooting in 2022. Accidental shootings occur in 0.001% of all American households with a firearm annually.

Contrary to claims by Everytown and Giffords, simply owning a firearm does not significantly elevate the risk of danger. In reality, the likelihood of dying from other causes such as fire, drowning, poisoning, falls, or motor vehicle accidents far exceeds that of accidental firearm-related deaths.

Gun Laws and Accidental Shootings

Whenever a tragedy occurs, the anti-gun lobby, media, and many politicians exploit it. Despite an estimated 113,000,000 firearm owners in America, the 673 accidental shooting deaths have spurred discussions about new legislation.

Examining states with existing legislation like safe storage laws and concerns about permitless carry provides insights into the impact of such laws on accidental shootings.

Safe Storage Laws

With limited safe storage legislation in the U.S., accidental shooting deaths declined by 40% between 1999 and 2023. This decline underscores the effectiveness of firearm safety initiatives primarily driven by the pro-2A community.

As of 2024, 26 states have safe storage laws. For instance, in Texas, it constitutes a prosecutable offense if a child gains access to an unsecured firearm. Notably, Texas recorded 61 accidental shooting deaths among individuals aged 1-17 between 2018 and 2023.

Expanding this data reveals that 30% of all accidental firearm-related deaths in this age group occurred in states with existing safe storage laws, whereas nine states without such laws had no accidental shootings involving children during the same period.

Permitless Carry

Another contentious issue for the anti-gun lobby is permitless carry legislation. However, such legislation does not ease firearm access; rather, it allows lawful individuals to carry firearms without a permit.

Analyzing data from states before and after enacting permitless carry laws reveals no significant correlation with unintentional shootings. For instance:

Indiana, Kentucky, and Oklahoma, which passed permitless carry between 2019 and 2021, had accidental shooting deaths, while the other four states (Iowa, Montana, South Dakota, and Wyoming) that enacted permitless carry had none.

In Indiana, there was no notable change in accidental shooting deaths after passing permitless carry in 2021.

Kentucky and Oklahoma also did not experience significant fluctuations in accidental shooting deaths following the implementation of permitless carry laws.

Ultimately, permitless carry legislation neither exacerbates nor alleviates accidental shooting incidents. Firearm safety is primarily an individual responsibility that cannot be regulated effectively.

Accidental Shootings: The Full Picture

Though 2.3% of accidental shootings are fatal, only 0.0001% of all firearms in the U.S. are involved in such incidents, affecting just 0.05% of all households with firearms.

Understanding the causes of accidental shootings is crucial. Regardless of firearm ownership or Second Amendment stance, familiarizing oneself and one's family with firearm safety principles is imperative.

Common causes of accidental shootings include:

Common causes of accidental shootings

Further analysis reveals that a significant portion of unintentional firearm deaths result from mishandling firearms or hunting-related accidents.

From 2005 to 2015, research indicates that 28.3% of unintentional firearm deaths happened when individuals were handling firearms casually. Additionally, 17.2% of deaths resulted from not confirming the firearm was unloaded, while 13.8% of victims were engaged in hunting-related incidents. [Unintentional Firearm Deaths in the United States: 2005-2015]

Accidental Gunshot Deaths and Adolescents

Individuals aged 14 to 30 face the highest risk of accidental shooting deaths. In 2021, 46 small children (aged two to four) and 71 teens and young adults succumbed to unintentional gunshot wounds.

Although accidental firearm-related deaths in the <1-17 age group are relatively low compared to other accidents, they remain preventable. Vigilant gun owners and parents play a crucial role in mitigating such incidents.

Prevention And Safety Measures

Accidents often occur due to carelessness. While some states have safe storage laws, accidental shootings involving minors and adults still happen.

Hence, it's vital to maintain constant vigilance over firearms. While access to defense firearms should be unrestricted for adults, precautions should be taken to prevent access by children or unauthorized individuals.

Individuals under the influence of drugs or alcohol or those incapable of handling firearms should refrain from doing so. Moreover, hunters must adhere to safety protocols such as knowing their targets and the surrounding environment.

Effectiveness Of Educational Programs

Although the effectiveness of educational programs on accidental shootings warrants further research, increasing education alone may not be enough.

A study found that a majority of teachers support firearm safety education in schools, indicating a potential avenue for disseminating such knowledge.

Study results:

  • 62% approved of education in schools overall
  • 13% disapproved of firearm safety courses in schools
  • 25% had no opinion
  • 28.4% of teachers approved of firearm safety for students in Pre-K and 1st grade
  • 54% of teachers indicated that military personnel or police should teach the courses
  • 6.9% of teachers responding approve of teachers educating students on gun safety
Effectiveness of firearm safety educational programs

Accidental Shootings vs. Other Accidental Causes

Unintentional falls rank as the most common accident across all age groups in the U.S., followed by incidents categorized as "Struck by or Against" and motor vehicle accidents.

Accidental firearm-related injuries do not feature in the top ten causes of all accidents in the U.S.

In 2021, firearms accounted for only 0.2% of all accidental deaths, with poisoning and falls constituting the leading causes.

The Run-Down on Accidental Shootings

While any firearm-related injury or death is tragic, accidental shootings are rare and entirely preventable.

Legislation alone is insufficient to prevent accidental shootings; proactive firearm safety measures are crucial. Understanding firearm safety principles and identifying high-risk individuals are essential steps in reducing firearm-related deaths in America.

It’s crucial for individual gun owners and parents to take necessary precautions to minimize the likelihood of accidental shootings.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the most common causes of accidental shootings?

The most common cause of accidental shootings is mishandling a firearm.

What are the most effective ways to prevent accidental gun shootings?

The most effective way to prevent accidental shootings is to follow the ten rules of gun safety and ensure that firearms are inaccessible to prohibited or uneducated individuals.

How do gun safety laws impact accidental shooting statistics?

States with no gun safety legislation take the majority in the top five and bottom five states for unintentional firearm-related deaths.


Cassandra McBride
Written by
Cassandra McBride