Using laws to prevent firearm fatalities

May 29, 2020

Many states have passed laws to prevent firearm fatalities in children. How effective are they? Is one type of law more effective than others?

Death by firearm is, unfortunately, an all-too-real possibility for children, and one of the most frustrating ways for a child to be killed by a firearm is having access to a gun through negligent firearm storage. A new report in JAMA Pediatrics examines how specific, comprehensive firearm safe storage laws affected firearm fatalities in children aged 0 to 14 years.1

Investigators conducted a state-level, cross-sectional study of child access prevention (CAP) firearm laws in the United States from 1991 to 2016 and examined the difference in fatality rates. There were 2 categories of CAP firearm laws: negligence laws, pertaining to the ability to access the firearm in the home, and recklessness laws, pertaining to a person providing a firearm to a child.

There were 25 states that passed CAP laws between 1989 and 2000. During the study period of 1991 to 2016, 13,697 firearm fatalities happened in children aged 0 to 14 years. The researchers found that recklessness laws appeared to not have an impact on changes in pediatric firearm fatality rates. However, negligence laws were tied to significant reductions in forearm fatalities in children aged 0 to 14 years. Negligence laws also were tied to a 13% relative reduction in all firearm fatalities; 15% relative reduction in firearm homicides; a 12% relative reduction in firearm suicides; and a 13% relative reduction in unintentional firearm fatalities.

Negligence laws that were most stringent were linked to a 59% reduction in unintentional firearm fatality. Overall, 3929 deaths, or 29% of all firearm deaths, were linked to states that did not have the most stringent form of negligence CAP laws.

References:

1.    Azad HA, Monuteaux MC, Rees CA, et al. Child access prevention firearm laws and firearm fatalities among children aged 0 to 14 years, 1991-2016. JAMA Pediatr. 2020;174(5):463-469. doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2019.6227