Background: Between 1979 and 1997, almost 30,000 Americans died from unintentional firearm injuries, half of whom were under 25 years of age and 4,600 of whom were less than 15 years old.
Purpose: To explore the association between state firearm levels and rates of unintentional firearm deaths by age group, accounting for several potential confounders.
Methods: The study used a proxy for firearm availability and pooled cross-sectional time-series data on unintentional firearm deaths for the 50 United States from 1979 to 1997. Negative binomial models were used to estimate the association between firearm availability and unintentional firearm deaths.
Results: A statistically significant and robust association exists between gun availability and unintentional firearm deaths for the US as a whole and within each age group. Multivariate analysis found that, compared to states with the lowest gun levels, states with the highest gun levels had, on average, 9 times the rate of unintentional firearm deaths. These results hold among men and women, for Whites and African Americans.
Conclusion: Of the almost 30,000 people who died in unintentional firearm deaths over the 19-year study period, a disproportionately high number died in states where guns are more prevalent. The results suggest that the increased risk of unintentional violent death among all age groups is not entirely explained by a state's level of poverty, urbanization, or regional location.