Objective: Unintentional firearm deaths among children have been declining steadily in the United States. This study investigates whether Child Access Prevention (CAP) laws are associated with this decline.
Methods: Pooled cross-sectional time- series data (1979-2000) for 50 states and negative binomial regression methods were used to estimate the effect of Child Access Prevention laws on unintentional firearm deaths among children.
Results: Most states that enacted CAP laws experienced greater subsequent declines in the rate of unintentional firearm deaths for children age 0 to 14 compared with states not enacting the laws; however when adjusted for firearm prevalence and state and national effects the laws were associated with statistically significant declines only in Florida and California. In a comparison group of adults age 55 to 74, a group less likely to have young children in the home and thus less likely to be influenced by CAP laws, there was no indication that CAP laws affected unintentional firearm death rates.
Conclusions: Unintentional firearm deaths are declining in the United States, with the rate for children under age 15 declining faster than adults. States that allowed felony prosecution of offenders experienced a greater effect of CAP laws than states that did not. CAP laws may have had some influence on the continued reduction in national death rates.