Accidental Shootings:

Many Deaths and Injuries Caused by Firearms Could Be Prevented

PEMD-91-9: Published: Mar 19, 1991. Publicly Released: Apr 17, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the extent to which certain safety devices could prevent firearms-related deaths, focusing on the proportion of accidental deaths that might be averted by modifying the firearms with an automatic engaging childproof safety device or with a device that indicates whether a gun is loaded.

GAO found that: (1) the safety devices could have prevented about 31 percent of accidental deaths caused by firearms; (2) from 1988 through 1989, the childproof safety device could have prevented 8 percent of 107 accidental firearms-related fatalities, and the loading indicator could have prevented 23 percent of the cases involving injuries or deaths; (3) no data existed indicating the actual number of injuries from accidental discharges of firearms; and (4) from 1988 through 1989, data from 10 cities indicated that there was a ratio of 105 injuries for each death, suggesting that the number of nationwide accidental firearm injuries was substantial and far exceeded the number of fatalities.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Legislation was introduced to enact the recommendation in the last Congress, but it has not been reintroduced, and there are no current plans to do so.

    Matter: Congress should amend the Consumer Product Safety Act to clearly establish that the Consumer Product Safety Commission can regulate the risk of injury associated with firearms.


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