Gun accidents happen for all sorts of reasons. Here is a look at some of the common things that go wrong:

Types of gun accidents:

  • The trigger was bumped or pulled accidentally (Around 20% of accidental deaths)
  • The handler thought the gun was unloaded, or that the magazine was disengaged (Around 14% of all accidental deaths)
  • The gun is dropped and fires (around 11% of accidental deaths)
  • The person thinks the safety is engaged (Around 5% of all accidental deaths.)

  • The gun fired on its own due to a manufacturing defect or malfunction (Around 5% of accidental deaths)

  • The gun fired while holstering/unholstering (Around 1% of accidental deaths)

  • The gun fires while working the safety (Around 1% of accidental deaths)

(Source: Karch et al., 2008)

The remaining cases are accidents where the exact cause is unknown. Any way you slice it up, handling a gun is dangerous. Just like knives, the more you handle them, the greater your risk of being cut.

Why Safety & Protection Are Incompatible

The catch 22 is that if you’re keeping a gun for protection, then in order for it to work for protection it needs to be easily accessible. That means putting your kids at risk, (a higher risk than what is posed by community predators) in which case you won’t need to worry about any criminals, because you’re far more of a dangerous person to them than they are. Or you must keep the kids safe, which means locking both the gun and its ammunition safely away, which mean that it won’t be readily accessible. And don’t forget bullets can be just as dangerous without a gun. As a child, a friend of mine shot himself through the hand while holding a bullet he had found on the street up to a candle to look at it. The same can happen while holding a cartridge up to a light or other heated surface, or if the firing strike is banged against something hard.

Example of gun accidents:

Friends and family were mourning the loss of a 3-year-old boy who died from a gunshot wound, after a revolver in his family’s apartment accidentally discharged. Little Trevonte Williams was struck in the head by the accidental discharge. (USA Today, 10-20-08, p. 10A)