Report: Lethal firearms accidents at lowest rate since 1903

A recently released statistical report on unintentional injuries produced by the National Safety Council found that fatal accidental gun deaths are at the lowest levels since data has been collected.

The Council, chartered by Congress in 1953, released its 2017 Injury Facts edition, which found that, while deaths due to prescription drug abuse continue to rise, those from accidental gunshots continue to fall. As noted by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the number of deaths due to fatal firearm accidents fell some 17 percent between 2014 and 2015, the lowest since record keeping began.

Safety programs aimed at curbing gun accidents have been on the rise over the past several generations.

While a number of states instituted firearms safety programs via hunters education classes back in the 1950s, the federal government authorized funding for such initiatives in 1970 as part of the Pittman-Robertson Act. Such programs have been cited by conservation officials when observing historic declines in gun accidents in the field during hunting seasons.

The basic gun safety rules as advocated by the National Rifle Association are mentioned at least as far back as Jeff Cooper’s The Complete Book of Modern Handgunning in 1961. The gun rights group has also backed their Eddie Eagle GunSafe, which they contend has reached more than 28 million children since 1988.

In 2005, as part of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, gun manufacturers and importers were required to include a gun lock or box with every handgun transfer. Predating the requirement, the NSSF launched Project ChildSafe in 1999 which has distributed some 37 million free gun locks since its inception.

“This latest release from the National Safety Council shows that the vast majority of the 100 million American firearms owners meet the serious responsibilities which come with firearms ownership,” said NSSF President and CEO Steve Sanetti. “They store their firearms safely and securely when not in use, and follow the basic rules of firearms safety when handling them.”

The Council estimates the odds of dying by an unintentional firearms discharge is 1 in 6,905, falling between pedacyclist incidents and air and space incidents. The most likely cause of death came from heart disease or cancer, with a 1 in 7 chance.

In related news, the group puts the odds of dying in an “assault by firearm” at 1 in 370, between dying in falls and as a car occupant.