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Gun Safety

February 2020

Gun Safety

  • Since 1903, the earliest year of data available, the per capita rate of gun accident deaths has decreased 95 percent, from 3.1 to 0.14 deaths per 100,000 population. [1]
  • There were 458 fatal firearms-related accidents in 2018 – the lowest since at least 1903 – and the rate matched the record low of 0.14 per 100k population. [2]
  • Over the last 25 years, annual numbers of gun accident deaths have decreased by more than 66%.[3] Concurrently, Americans have acquired over 200 million new guns and today own approximately 407 million guns, an all-time high.[4]
  • Guns are involved in 0.27 percent of accidental deaths among the total population and 1.4 percent among children.[5]
  • Voluntary education decreases accidents. NRA firearm safety programs are conducted by nearly 116,000 NRA Certified Instructors and Range Safety Officers nationwide, reaching over one million program participants annually.[6] Youngsters learn firearm safety in NRA programs offered through civic groups such as the Boy Scouts, the Jaycees, 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 28,000 school teachers and law enforcement officers to reach more than 31 million children.[7]
  • NRA’s Law Enforcement Division has trained over 60,000 law enforcement firearm instructors since its inception.  It currently has over 13,000 active, certified law enforcement firearm instructors conducting firearm training for local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, as well as the military.[8]
  • Gun control supporters’ claim that there are fewer motor vehicle traffic accident deaths than the grand total of firearm suicides, criminal homicides, self-defense homicides, law enforcement homicides, and accidental deaths is a frivolous,  “apples-to-oranges” comparison. A direct comparison of accidents to accidents alone, motor vehicle traffic accident deaths outnumber firearm accident deaths by 83 to one, and those involving firearms have decreased at a faster rate than those involving motor vehicles.[9]
  • 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: Unintentional Fatal Injuries in 2018



Percent of All Fatal Injuries

Children 0-14

Percent of All Childhood Fatal Injuries

Total Unintentional Fatal Injuries





Drug Poisoning





Motor Vehicle Traffic




















Non-Drug Poisoning










Natural/ Environmental





Pedal Cyclist
(Incl Motor Vehicle Traffic & Other)





Struck by/ against















Cut/ Piercing






The most recent fatal injury data available is from 2018. The number of fatal firearms-related accidents hit a record low and were less than one-half of one-percent (0.27%) of all fatal accidental injuries. 

The overall rate of a fatal firearm accident in 2018 was 0.14 per 100,000 population and the rate among children through age 14 was 0.089 per 100,000. These would equal rates of 1.4 per million population and 0.89 per million children.

The above table does not include adverse effects. In 2018, there were more fatalities both overall (4,104) and among children specifically (70) due to the adverse effects of medical care than to firearms-related accidents. The fatality rates for the adverse effects of medical care would be 1.25 per 100,000 population and 0.11 per 100,000 children.

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, 1.2% of which are accidental. 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.”[10] There were 37,553 fewer accidental firearms-related fatalities in 2018 than there were accidental motor vehicle traffic fatalities.[11]

In 2016, an offshoot of the National Coalition to Ban Handguns[12] 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.”[13]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.”[14]

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 2018, the annual number of motor vehicle traffic accident deaths decreased 24% while the annual number of gun accident deaths decreased 76%.

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. The fatal firearm accident death rate hit an all-time low in 2014 and returned to that record low again in 2018 while seeing fewer actual fatalities (461 in 2014 and 458 in 2018). Gun control supporters want registration and licensing only to acquire records necessary to allow the government to 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.[15]



[1] National Safety Council, Injury Facts 2000 Edition, page 40, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [online]. (2005). Available from www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars.

[2] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [online]. (2005). Available from www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars. National Safety Council, Historical Preventable Fatality Trends [online]. Available from https://injuryfacts.nsc.org/all-injuries/historical-preventable-fatality-trends/deaths-by-cause/

[3] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [online]. (2005). Available from www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars.

[4] 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 2018, and NICS data.

[5] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [online]. (2005). Available from www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars.

[6] For more on NRA training programs, visit http://training.nra.org//.

[7] For more on the Eddie Eagle program, visit https://eddieeagle.nra.org/.

[8] For more information about NRA Law Enforcement training programs, visit http://le.nra.org/.

[9] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [online]. (2005). Available from www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars.

[10] Chris Christoff and Ilan Kolet, American Gun Deaths to Exceed Traffic Fatalities by 2015.

[11] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [online]. (2005). Available from www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars.

[12] 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.

[13] VPC, Gun Deaths Surpass Motor Vehicle Deaths in 21 State and the District of Columbia, January 11, 2016.

[14] VPC, Cease Fire: A Comprehensive Strategy to Reduce Firearms Violence, 1998.

[15] 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.


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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.