Declining accidental gun deaths contradict concerns about booming gun sales

A market analyst said last week federal statistics citing an all-time low in accidental gunshot deaths defies popular narratives surrounding the “proliferation of firearms” and increased fatalities.

Rich Duprey, an analyst and writer for The Motley Fool, said gun owners’ commitment to safety explains why “despite soaring gun sales, few people are actually accidentally injured by them.”

“Crimes committed with guns will always be a problem, but the declining rates of commission using firearms of any kind suggests the proliferation of guns may be having a deterrent effect,” he said in an article published May 8.

The report Duprey references, National Safety Council’s Injury Facts 2017, attributed 489 deaths to accidental firearm discharges in 2015 — the lowest in the council’s 114-year history of injury record-keeping.

Report findings indicate choking deaths occur twice as often as accidental discharges while drowning is six times more likely. The chances of dying during a firearm assault are one in 370, according to the NSC, or three times less likely as dying after a fall.

Duprey said booming rifle sales — up 71 percent for American Outdoor Brands and 27 percent for Sturm, Ruger — so far haven’t correlated into increased levels of violence. FBI data shows rifles were used in 2 percent of homicides in 2014. Homicides involving blunt objects occurred almost twice as often, according to the FBI.

“The use of rifles to commit homicides is negligible in the scheme of things despite the amount of attention supposed ‘assault rifles’ receive in the media,” he said. “The presence of all these new firearms on the market would presumably have also led to an increase in the number of people accidentally killing themselves, but it turns out, that’s not the case, either.”

Duprey said the rate of accidental gunshot deaths declined while accidental deaths “from all other listed causes” rose 8 percent.

The report compiles cause of death data from National Center for Health Statistics. NSC said drug overdoses ranked as the leading cause of accidental death among adults aged 25 to 64 in 2015.

“Unintentional poisoning deaths in the adult population were not prevalent until the early 1990s,” the NSC said on its website. “Since then this category has skyrocketed to 1st place, driven by unintentional drug overdose — predominantly from prescription painkillers.”

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