Study objective: We determine the proportion of unintended shootings that might be prevented by promoting safe storage, safe handling, and/or safer firearm designs.
Methods: A regional firearm injury surveillance system was used to identify fatal and nonfatal unintentional shootings in a 5-county metropolitan area. Case reports were reviewed, and the causes of each shooting were independently classified by 4 members of the research team. A consensus conference was held to resolve disagreements.
Results: Between May 1, 1996, and June 30, 2000, 216 cases of unintentional firearm injury were identified, 3.8% of the shootings documented during the study period. Six (2.8%) were fatal. The majority of victims were between 15 and 34 years of age. One fourth (54) of the shootings involved victims younger than 18 years. Handguns were involved in 87% of the incidents. Enough information was available to characterize the incident in 122 (57%) cases. All but 6 fell into 1 or more of 3 broad categories of causation: Child access (14%), mishandling (74%), and/or deficiencies in firearm design (32%).
Conclusion: Many unintentional shootings could be prevented by promoting safe storage of guns in the home, promoting safe handling of firearms, and requiring that all new handguns incorporate basic safety features.