The National Safety Council released the 2017 edition of its annual Injury Facts report this week, and it contains welcome news about firearm safety.
The number of fatal firearms accidents dropped to the lowest point ever (since 1903, when the data was first tracked). There were 489 total fatal firearm accidents nationwide – a 17% decrease from 2014. As a percent of the total number of fatal accidents, firearms accident rank very low: just 0.3% of all fatal accidents involved a firearm.
Comparing the odds between the types of fatal accidents can help put these numbers into context, and the National Safety Council puts fatal injury data in this format to make comparisons easier. The odds of a fatal firearms accident are 1 in 6,905. You are more likely to be killed by:
Poisoning (1 in 96)
A motor vehicle crash (1 in 114)
A fall (1 in 127)
Drowning (1 in 1,188)
A bicycle crash (1 in 4,486)
What makes the record low number of fatal firearms accidents even more noteworthy is that it came at a time when the number of firearms in the country was skyrocketing. The year 2015 saw the most background checks ever conducted in a single year until that point (the number was surpassed in 2016). More than 23 million NICS checks were conducted in 2015. Background checks don’t have a one-to-one correlation with firearms purchases, so we don’t know for sure how many more guns were bought in 2015 than previous years…. but we do know that the number of American gun owners was on the rise.
NICS checks result in refusals in a relatively small number of cases, possibly because people with criminal records know they are not going to pass the check and so don’t bother to try. There have been 2.4 million gun sales blocked by NICS check since 1998, out of 257,495,166 total NICS checks since 1998. That computes to just under 1% of NICS checks result in refusal to allow the sale to proceed.
So, while we know that NICS checks don’t exactly corrolate one-to-one with gun purchases, we know that they do corrolate at least 0.99-to-one. I say “at least” because at least one gun is bought with a NICS approval to proceed, but often more than one gun is bought with one NICS check. So we can say that since 1998 at least over 257 million new guns have been added to the free American people’s arsenal of guns. So fewer guns accidents is a pretty big deal. I looks like American gun owners are very safe and responsible with guns, to say the least.