October 1, 1997

State Gun Safe Storage Laws and Child Mortality Due to Firearms

Author Affiliations

From the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center, University Of Washington (Drs Cummings, Grossman, Rivara, and Koepsell); the Departments of Epidemiology (Drs Cummings, Rivara, and Koepsell) and Health Services (Drs Grossman and Koepsell), School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of Washington; and the Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine, University of Washington (Drs Grossman and Rivara), Seattle.

JAMA. 1997;278(13):1084-1086. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03550130058037

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.  —Anecological 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 withinstate 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.