Accidental Shooting Deaths in U.S. Down Significantly

The rate of people killed in unintentional shootings fell 48 percent between 1999 and 2015. Neither side of the gun debate talks much about the trend.

Amid widespread gun violence in the U.S., the number of accidental shooting deaths has steadily declined, the Los Angeles Times reports. There were 489 people killed in unintentional shootings in the U.S. in 2015, the most recent year for which data is available. That was down from 824 deaths in 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Taking into account population growth over that time, the rate fell 48 percent. Experts attribute the decline to gun safety education programs, state laws regulating gun storage in homes and a drop in the number of households that have guns. The gains were overshadowed by an overall rise in gun deaths driven by the top two causes: suicides and homicides. Accidents made up just 1.3 percent of the 36,247 U.S. shooting deaths in 2015.

Neither side of the gun debate talks much about the progress. The National Rifle Association, which opposes most gun control measures, is not eager to acknowledge that gun regulations may be working. A spokeswoman for Everytown for Gun Safety, which advocates for gun control, called the decline “encouraging” but suggested that the federal data may not capture all accidental gun fatalities because it depends on how local medical examiners classify deaths. Of the 489 people killed in accidental shootings in 2015, more than 85 percent were male, and nearly 27 percent of those were between 15 and 24. The rate for that group — five deaths per 100,000 people — was more than triple the national average. The rates for males under 15 was far lower, perhaps due to child access prevention laws, which allow for criminal or civil charges to be filed against a gun owner if a child gains access to a firearm that is not securely stored. Congress has resisted such legislation. Some 27 states now have such laws, with 14 states making improper gun storage a criminal offense.