A study published in the July 2010 journal of Accident Analysis and Prevention
examined data from the National Violent Death Reporting System for other-inflicted and self-inflicted unintentional firearm fatalities for the years 2003-2006. The study found:
- in almost half of all unintentional firearm fatalities someone other than the victim fired the shot.
- the younger the victim, the more likely the decedent was shot by someone else.
- victims of unintentional shootings were overwhelmingly male. So were the shooters. The few females who died were usually shot by another person, almost always male.
- most firearm deaths occurred in the context of someone playing with the gun, cleaning or loading the gun.
- handguns rather than long guns caused most of the unintentional firearm deaths.
- in almost half the other-inflicted deaths the shooter is from the same family as the victim, often a brother.
- the danger to children and adolescents is largely from being shot by others - typically friends or siblings.
The authors, Hemenway, Barber, and Miller conclude:
These finds lend credence to programmatic and policy proposals to improve gun storage, and to make it normative for parents to ask about the availability of guns in the homes visited by their children.
The real costs of unintentional firearm death are not borne exclusively by the victim and his family, but also include the guilt and grief of the shooter and his family. In half of all other-inflicted unintentional fatal firearm incidents the shooter was a friend or acquaintance. Usually, both shooter and victim are young, with many expected years of life ahead of them.
By dividing unintentional fatalities into other-inflicted and self-inflicted injuries, our study underscores the need to examine another party along with the victim - the shooter - and suggests that prevention of unintentional firearm fatalities, should focus on influencing the shooter as well as the victim.