Unintentional firearm deaths in the United States 2005-2015

Inj Epidemiol. 2019 Oct 14;6:42. doi: 10.1186/s40621-019-0220-0. eCollection 2019.


Background: Unintentional gun death occurs four times more often in the United States than other high-income countries. Research on these deaths typically has a narrow scope. We believe this is the first study describing the circumstances of these deaths in the United States that covers more than a single state or municipality.

Methods: We use data on all unintentional firearm fatalities in the sixteen states reporting to the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) for all years 2005-2015. Our final count of unintentional firearm deaths in these states and years is 1260. The detailed nature of the data allows us to categorize and compare the circumstances of the incident.

Results: We estimate 430 unintentional firearm fatalities in the United States per year. The rate is highest for older children to young adults, ages 10 to 29, and the vast majority of the victims are male. Common circumstances include playing with the gun (28.3% of incidents), thinking the gun was unloaded (17.2%), and hunting (13.8%). The victim is suspected to have consumed alcohol in nearly a quarter of the deaths and in 46.8% of deaths among those aged 20-29.

Conclusions: Certain circumstances, such as consuming alcohol, playing with the gun, and hunting, are common settings for unintentional firearm deaths. Firearm safety instructors, firearm manufacturers, and firearm owners can all contribute to preventing these deaths.

Keywords: Deaths; Fatalities; Firearm; Gun; Unintentional.