Unintentional Fatalities

Unintentional firearm-related deaths have steadily declined during the past century.27 The number of unintentional deaths due to firearm-related incidents accounted for less than 1 percent of all unintentional fatalities in 2010 (Hoyert and Xu, 2012). Despite this progress, more than 600 people in the United States died as a result of an unintentional discharge of a firearm in 2010 (Hoyert and Xu, 2012). Risks are highest among adolescents and young adults. Approximately 10 percent of unintentional deaths in 2010 involved children under age 15 (Hoyert and Xu, 2012).

About half of unintentional firearm-related fatalities are self-inflicted (Hemenway et al., 2010). Unintentional firearm-related deaths caused by someone other than the victim are primarily committed by friends or family members (Hemenway et al., 2010). Only 2 percent of unintentional firearm-related deaths were connected with self-defense (Hemenway et al., 2010). Rates of unintentional firearm death are significantly higher in rural than in urban counties (Carr et al., 2012).

Mass Shootings

According to the Congressional Research Service, public mass shootings “have claimed 547 lives and led to an additional 476 injured victims” since 1983 (Bjelopera et al., 2013, pp. 7-8). Mass shootings are a highly visible and moving tragedy, but represent only a small fraction of total firearm-related violence. Although it may seem that protection against such an event is nearly impossible, proactive law enforcement activities, including community policing and intelligence-led policing, may help prevent some mass shootings (Bjelopera et al., 2013). Analyzing the details of a prevented event against those of a realized event might provide guidance to schools and other locations with large groups of people about efficient and effective ways to avoid such an event. Proactive mental health risk assessment and interventions may also prevent some mass shootings. It is also apparent that some mass murder incidents are associated with suicides (Bell and McBride, 2010). However,


27 The CDC’s WISQARS (Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System) website cautions against comparing the number of deaths and death rates from 1998 and earlier with data from 1999 and later due to significant changes in mortality data coding (CDC, 2011a).

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