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Gun Safety

August 8, 2016

Gun Safety

  • Since 1903, the earliest year of data available, the per capita rate of gun accident deaths has decreased 94 percent, from 3.1 to 0.18 deaths per 100,000 population.[1] 
  • Over the last 20 years, annual numbers of gun accident deaths have decreased by more than half.[2] Concurrently, Americans have acquired over 150 million new guns and today own approximately 350 million guns, an all-time high.[3] 
  • Guns are involved in 0.4 percent of accidental deaths among the total population and 1.3 percent among children.[4] Today, the odds are more than a million to one against a child in the U.S. dying in a gun accident.
  • Voluntary education decreases accidents. NRA firearm safety programs are conducted by more than 125,000 NRA Certified Instructors and Range Safety Officers nationwide, reaching over one million program participants annually.[5] Youngsters learn firearm safety in NRA programs offered through civic groups such as the Boy Scouts, the Jaycees, and the American Legion, and schools.
  • NRA’s Eddie Eagle GunSafe® program teaches children pre-K through 3rd grade that if they see a gun, they should not touch it, and should tell a grown-up. Since 1988, Eddie has been used by 26,000 schools, civic groups, and law enforcement agencies to reach more than 27 million children.[6] 
  • NRA’s Law Enforcement Division’s 13,000 Law Enforcement Firearm Instructors train law enforcement agency firearm instructors nationwide.[7]
  • Gun control supporters’ claim that there are fewer motor vehicle accident deaths than the grand total of firearm suicides, criminal homicides, self-defense homicides, law enforcement homicides, and accidental deaths is not only incorrect, it is “apples-to-oranges” to the point of bordering on the frivolous. Comparing accidents to accidents alone, motor vehicle traffic accident deaths outnumber firearm accident deaths 57 to one, and those involving firearms have decreased at a faster rate than those involving motor vehicles.[8] 
  • Gun control supporters want the manufacture of firearms subject to consumer products regulations, and say that such regulations should result in handguns and “assault weapons” being banned.

Current data – In 2014, the most recent year of data available, of 138,593 accidental deaths in the U.S., 38,718 (28%) were due to drug poisoning, 32,834 (24%) to motor vehicle traffic accidents (excluding pedal cyclists), 31,959 (23%) to falls, 6,580 (5%) to suffocation, 3,406 (2.5%) to drowning, 3,314 (2.4%) to non-drug poisoning, 2,701 (1.9%) to fire/flame, 2,156 (1.6%) to medical mistakes, 1,625 (1.2%) to natural/environmental factors, 902 (0.7%) involved pedal cycles, 586 (0.4%) involved guns, and 13,812 (10%) were due to other factors.

Of 3,899 accidental deaths among children, 1,178 (30%) were due to suffocation, 1,083 (28%) to motor vehicle traffic accidents (excluding pedal cyclists), 647 (17%) to drowning, 247 (6%) to fire/flame, 85 (2%) to natural/environmental factors, 68 (1.7%) to poisoning, 53 (1.4%) to falls, 50 (1.3%) involved guns, 48 (1.2%) involved pedal cycles, 39 (1.0%) involved medical mistakes, and 401 (10%) were due to other factors.

Motor vehicles and guns – For propaganda purposes, gun control supporters compare the number of deaths involving motor vehicles, 99.3% of which are accidental, to those involving guns, 1.7% of which are accidental, hoping that the latter will eventually outnumber the former. In 2012, a news outlet owned by anti-gun activist Michael Bloomberg predicted, “[b]y 2015, firearm fatalities will probably exceed traffic fatalities for the first time.”[9]

In 2016, an offshoot of the National Coalition to Ban Handguns[10] claimed, “science-based regulations have dramatically reduced deaths from motor vehicles in recent decades. It’s well past time that we regulate firearms for health and safety just like all other consumer products.”[11]By “regulate,” the group means, “ATF [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives] should be empowered to operate as a health and safety agency with the ability to . . . restrict the availability of specific firearms, classes of firearms and firearm products . . . Take immediate action to stop the sale and distribution of firearms or firearms products found to be ‘imminent hazards’ . . . no new versions of assault weapons . . . Handguns should be banned from future sale except for military and law-enforcement personnel.”[12]

However, the claim that motor vehicle accidents have declined because the federal government dictates how vehicles should be built, and that the same should be done to guns, is dubious. Gun accident deaths, without the government regulation that gun control supporters propose, have decreased at a much greater rate than accidental deaths involving heavily regulated motor vehicles. From 1981 to 2014 (the earliest and most recent years of data available from the CDC), the annual number of motor vehicle traffic accident deaths decreased 33%, while the annual number of gun accident deaths decreased 69%. Also, while motor vehicle accident deaths remained steady during the 1990s, and increased slightly after the turn of the century, they decreased sharply in 2008 and 2009, concurrent with the recession, and have remained steady thereafter.

In the 1990s, gun control supporters claimed motor vehicle accident deaths decreased from 1968 to 1991 because of driver licensing and vehicle registration laws. However, most such laws were imposed between the world wars, and motor vehicle accident deaths increased sharply after 1930. Also, between 1968 and 1991 the motor vehicle accident death rate dropped only 37% with registration and licensing, while the firearm accident death rate dropped 50% without those restrictions. Gun control supporters want registration and licensing only to acquire records necessary to allow the government know who has guns, in the event that a gun confiscation law is imposed. The anti-gun activist group now known as the Brady Campaign once said that registration was the second step in its three-step plan for the confiscation of handguns.[13]

The CAP law myth: Gun control supporters used to point to a study by the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center (active in the Handgun Epidemic Lowering Plan, or HELP, Network) claiming that “Child Access Prevention” (CAP) laws (which under some circumstances criminalize leaving a gun accessible to a child who obtains and misuses it), imposed in 12 states between 1989 and 1993, decreased firearm accident deaths among children.[14]However, firearm accident deaths among children began declining in the mid-1970s, not in 1989, when “CAP” laws were first imposed.[15] Also, such accidents have decreased nationwide, not only in “CAP” states. And the study failed to note that also in 1989, NRA’s Eddie Eagle GunSafe® Program was introduced nationwide.




[1] National Safety Council, Injury Facts 2000 Edition, page 40, and CDC, WISQARS data query website.
[2] Note 1, CDC.
[3] Philip Cook and Jens Ludwig, Guns in America: Results of a Comprehensive National Survey on Firearms Ownership and Use, Police Foundation, 1996, estimated 192 million privately owned firearms in 1994. See also Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Annual Firearms Manufacturers and Export Reports and Firearm Commerce in the United States 2014, and NICS data.
[4] Note 2.
[5] For more on NRA training programs, visit http://training.nra.org//.
[6] For more on the Eddie Eagle program, visit https://eddieeagle.nra.org/.
[7] For more information about NRA Law Enforcement training programs, visit http://le.nra.org/.
[8] Note 2.
[9] Chris Christoff and Ilan Kolet, American Gun Deaths to Exceed Traffic Fatalities by 2015.
[10] Violence Policy Center (VPC), formed in 1988 as the New Right Watch (renamed VPC in 1988 or 1989) by former NCBH staffer Josh Sugarmann, author of Every Handgun is Aimed at You: The Case for Banning Handguns.
[11] VPC, Gun Deaths Surpass Motor Vehicle Deaths in 21 State and the District of Columbia, January 11, 2016.
[12] VPC, Cease Fire: A Comprehensive Strategy to Reduce Firearms Violence, 1998.
[13] National Council to Control Handguns director Pete Shields, in The New Yorker, “A Reporter At Large: Handguns,” July 26, 1976. “The first problem is to slow down the increasing number of handguns being produced and sold in this country. The second problem is to get handguns registered. And the final problem is to make the possession of all handguns and all handgun ammunition—except for the military, policemen, licensed security guards, licensed sporting clubs, and licensed gun collectors—totally illegal.” NCCH was renamed Handgun Control, Inc. in 1979 and renamed Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence in 2001.
[14] Journal of the American Medical Association, Oct. 1, 1997.
[15] Note 2 and National Safety Council, annual Accident Facts reports 1976 and thereafter.





































































































































































































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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.