The number of deaths related to firearms has been rising dramatically in the United States during the past few decades. In 1978, there were more than 31,000 firearms-related deaths; 1,800 of the deaths were unintentional. More than 15,000 were regarded as suicides and more than 13,000 as homicides.1 In addition to the deaths, there are approximately 100,000 significant firearms-related injuries each year.

Half of the unintentional firearms-related fatalities occur in the home.2 Many of those killed or injured are pediatric-aged patients and young adults who have graduated from playing with toy guns to using real ones. Children younger than 15 years old accounted for 250 of the accidental deaths and an additional 700 fatalities were in the 15- to 24-year age group.1

Prevention programs for firearm injuries often emphasize the hazard of the hunter; however, fewer than 700 of the accidental deaths were in this category whereas 1,100 of the deaths occurred in the home.3 Education and information campaigns about firearm safety remain the major prevention strategy despite the fact that there are no data to support their effectiveness. Likewise, the use of handguns in suicides and homicides has not been affected.

This content is only available via PDF.