By: Cassandra McBride |

Key Statistics

  • There have been 196 accidental deaths related to firearms so far in 2023.
  • Accidental shooting deaths have declined from 1,491 per year (1979-1998) to an average of 606 (1999-2023).
  • 728 accidental shootings (including injuries or death) occur on average yearly.
  • 1% of all firearm-related deaths in 2022 were unintentional.
  • Individuals aged 14-30 are consistently more likely to die of accidental shootings than any other age group.

Accidental Shooting Key Statistics

Accidental shootings in the U.S. are rare. However, they do occur. The following sections will examine accidental shooting statistics and preventative measures.

Accidental Gunshots Per Year

In total, 673 individuals in the U.S. were a victims of an accidental shooting in 2022.

Total Accidental Shootings by Year

Note: The number of accidental shootings has declined year over year, despite increases in firearm purchases.

Does Concealed Carry Increase Accidental Shootings?

While four out of the top five states for accidental shooting deaths are permitless carry, all five of the states with the lowest accidental shooting deaths are also permitless carry. There’s no positive correlation between concealed carry and accidental shootings.

Accidental Shooting Deaths by State

Note: States with permitless concealed carry are included in the top five and bottom five for unintentional shooting deaths.

Percentage of Accidental Shooting Deaths Versus All Shootings

On average, 3.02% of all firearm-related deaths are accidental shootings. However, this has declined, with only 1.12% of deaths being unintentional in 2021.

Percentage of Accidental Shooting Deaths Versus All Shootings

Note: Accidental gun shootings have declined.

How Many Non-Fatal Injuries From Accidental Shooting

Non-fatal injuries from accidental shootings averaged 228 per year since 2015.

Total of Non-Fatal Injuries From Accidental Shooting

Note: Includes all ages.

Accidental Gunshot Deaths Per Year

There were 549 accidental deaths related to firearms in 2021 (the last year with complete data). However, accidental shooting deaths have declined from 1,491 per year (average between 1979-1998) to 583 per year (average 1999 – 2023).

Accidental Deaths Per Year

Note: Unintentional shooting data is incomplete for 2022 and 2023.

Accidental Gunshot Deaths and Adolescents

Unintentional firearm-related deaths occur when individuals aren’t handling firearms responsibly. Unfortunately, the issue is further compounded in adolescents and individuals under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

Accidental Deaths by Age

Note: Individuals aged 14-30 succumb to accidental shootings more often than other ages.

Causes And Risk Factors

A 2005-2015 study shows that 28.3% of unintentional firearm deaths occurred when someone was playing with a firearm. 17.2% of deaths occurred as a result of failure to ensure the firearm was unloaded. 13.8% of victims were involved in hunting-related accidents.

Common Factors Leading to Accidental Shootings

  • Drugs and alcohol use.
  • Failure to ensure the firearm is unloaded.
  • Obstructions in the barrel or improper ammunition.
  • Improper firearm maintenance.
  • Lack of education in firearm safety.

Role Of Firearm Accessibility

The 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act included a section requiring firearm manufacturers to include gun safety devices in every box. Safe storage is an individual choice, and accompanied with other safety precautions, can reduce the likelihood of unintentional firearm-related injuries.

The top three behaviors leading to an accidental shooting are playing with a firearm, not ensuring it’s unloaded, and hunting. Practicing the core tenets of gun safety is vital to handling firearms without injury.

The following gun safety rules are vital to reducing (or eliminating) all accidental shootings in the United States:

Gun safety rules

Analysis Of Common Accidents and Safe Storage Laws

The most common accidents leading to firearm-related injuries are those that result from mishandling a firearm.

Some states have passed legislation enforcing safe storage; this is retroactive and can’t be enforced before an accident.

Safe Storage Laws by State

Despite safe storage legislation, accidental shootings will continue to occur without individual responsibility.

Prevention And Safety Measures

Accidents are most common when people are careless. Some states have safe storage laws to protect minors from accessing loaded firearms. However, those states still have accidental shootings of minors and adults.

Therefore, it’s vital to pay attention to your firearms at all times. While defense firearms should always be accessible to you, a small child with little understanding of gun safety rules should not have access.

Prohibited individuals, those on drugs or alcohol, and those incapable of properly handling a firearm shouldn’t handle them.

Finally, hunters will greatly benefit from rule number 3. Know your target and what’s beyond it. Of course, hunters can also use check-in applications for hunting clubs like Hunt Stand, or ensure no one else is on the property at the time of shooting. It also helps to understand the terrain and how far your chosen hunting caliber can travel.

Effectiveness Of Educational Programs

More research is needed on the effectiveness of educational programs on accidental shootings. However, it’s unlikely that more education will help.

Furthermore, a 2010 study asked teachers if they supported gun safety education in schools. 62% of respondents favored more education on the subject.

Study results:

  • 62% approved of education in schools overall
  • 13% disapproved of firearm safety courses in schools
  • 25% had no opinion
  • 28.4% of teachers approved of firearm safety for students in Pre-K and 1st grade
  • 54% of teachers indicated that military personnel or police should teach the courses
  • 6.9% of teachers responding approve of teachers educating students on gun safety

Accidental Shootings Vs. Other Accidental Causes

Unintentional falls are the most common accident among all age groups in the U.S. Next, what the CDC defines as Struck by or Against (injury that the result of getting struck by something) is the number two reason for accident-related injuries (all age groups). The third most common injury among all age groups is vehicle-related.

  • Falls – 6,981,390
  • Struck by or against – 2,373,706
  • Motor Vehicle – 1,876,520

Accidental firearm-related injuries aren’t in the top ten of all causes in the U.S.

There were 224,935 deaths due to unintentional injuries in 2021. The leading cause of accidental deaths was poisoning, followed by falls.

  • Poisoning – 102,001
  • Motor Vehicle – 45,404
  • Falls – 44,686

0.2% of all accidental deaths in 2021 were related to firearms.

Self-Defense Vs. Accidental Shootings

Defensive firearm use occurs 1.67 million times per year, according to recent surveys. On the contrary, there are 583 accidental shootings per year resulting in death (1999-2021).

Accidental Gun Deaths Vs. Car Deaths

Traffic accidents far outweigh firearm-related accidental deaths. Pedestrian accidents also end more lives than accidental shootings.

Vehicle, Firearm, and Pedestrian Deaths

Accidental Shootings vs Motorcycle Deaths

There were 5,932 motorcycle-related deaths in 2021 compared to the 541 accidental shooting deaths.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the most common causes of accidental shootings?

The most common cause of accidental shootings is mishandling a firearm.

What are the most effective ways to prevent accidental gun shootings?

The most effective way to prevent accidental shootings is to follow the ten rules of gun safety and ensure that firearms are inaccessible to prohibited or uneducated individuals.

How do gun safety laws impact accidental shooting statistics?

States with no gun safety legislation take the majority in the top five and bottom five states for unintentional firearm-related deaths.