Firearms and Accidents

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Firearm-related accidental deaths represent a small fraction of all firearm-

related deaths, but unintentional injuries represent a sizable proportion

of all nonfatal injuries resulting from firearms—behind only the number

caused by violent assaults.

In 1999 there were 824 firearm-related accidental deaths—less than 1

percent of the 97,860 total accidental deaths for that year—corresponding

to an accidental firearm-related death rate of 0.30 per 100,000.

Rates of firearm-related accidental deaths have been declining since the

mid-1960s (Ikeda et al., 1997; Frattaroli et al., 2002). Since 1981, the

firearm-related accidental death rate has declined 63 percent from 0.83 to

0.30 per 100,000. The male rate of firearm-related accidental deaths is

much higher than the female rate. In 1999, males accounted for 88 percent

of accidental firearm-related deaths; however, both males and females have

contributed roughly proportionally to the declining trend. In 1999, the fatal

1981 1984 1987 1990 1993 1996 1999

Rate per 100,000 in Each Age Group

20

10

0

Over 75

20 to 24

40 to 74

25 to 39

15 to 19

0 to 14

FIGURE 3-9 Firearm-related suicides by selected age groupings, 1981-1999.

accident rate for blacks (0.47 per 100,000) was somewhat higher than the

rate for whites (0.30 per 100,000). There are also substantial differences in

trends in the rate firearm-related accidental deaths by age group. Although

firearm-related accidental death rates have been on a downward trend for

other age groups since the mid-1960s, rates for 15- to 24-year-olds rose

from 1987 to 1993 and then declined.