State gun safe storage laws and child mortality due to firearms

JAMA. 1997 Oct 1;278(13):1084-6.


Context: Since 1989, several states have passed laws that make gun owners criminally liable if someone is injured because a child gains unsupervised access to a gun. These laws are controversial, and their effect on firearm-related injuries is unknown.

Objective: To determine if state laws that require safe storage of firearms are associated with a reduction in child mortality due to firearms.

Design: An ecological study of firearm mortality from 1979 through 1994.

Setting: All 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Participants: All children younger than 15 years.

Main outcome measures: Unintentional deaths, suicides, and homicides due to firearms.

Results: Laws that make gun owners responsible for storing firearms in a manner that makes them inaccessible to children were in effect for at least 1 year in 12 states from 1990 through 1994. Among children younger than 15 years, unintentional shooting deaths were reduced by 23% (95% confidence interval, 6%-37%) during the years covered by these laws. This estimate was based on within-state comparisons adjusted for national trends in unintentional firearm-related mortality. Gun-related homicide and suicide showed modest declines, but these were not statistically significant.

Conclusions: State safe storage laws intended to make firearms less accessible to children appear to prevent unintentional shooting deaths among children younger than 15 years.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Home / mortality*
  • Accidents, Home / prevention & control
  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Firearms / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Firearms / statistics & numerical data
  • Homicide / prevention & control
  • Homicide / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Poisson Distribution
  • Regression Analysis
  • Safety* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • State Government
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data
  • Suicide Prevention
  • United States
  • Wounds, Gunshot / mortality*
  • Wounds, Gunshot / prevention & control