Chart by David Scott. The rate is number of fatalities per 100,000 population.
It is not simple to determine the rate of fatal firearm accidents in the United States over the long term. In this article three sources were used.
Rates and numbers from 1933-1987 are available from Kleck, Point Blank Page 306 Table 7.1.
Numbers of 1981-2000 were found in An Analysis of Firearm-Related Accidents in the United States(pdf). Rates were calculated using Census figures.
From 1999-2015 numbers were available in WISQARS, population for per capital rates was taken from U.S. Census figures.
For the overlap cases, the later source was used. The overlap from 1981 to 1987 only had one anomaly. In 1982, Kleck listed 1757 accidental firearm fatalities; the Analysis of Firearm-Related Accidents listed 1756. The 1999 and 2000 numbers for the Analysis and WISQARS numbers were the same.
The 1967 data point stands out as slightly bucking the long term trend of lower and lower fatal firearm accident rates. Curiously, it was the year before the Gun Control Act of 1968 went into effect.
The numbers are sparse in the early years. There are gaps in the data. The first number is from 1933, then 1935, 1940, 1945, 1950, 1955, 1960, and 1965. After 1965 the data is available for each year.
Between 1945, (the earliest figure available for per capita firearms, Kleck) to 2014 ( the latest figure, using BATFE numbers and Kleck's methodology), the number of per capita firearms has risen from .351 to 1.176. That is more than a three-fold increase.
During the same period, the per capita rate of fatal firearm accidents has declined from 1.84 per 100,000 to .15 per 100,000, over a 91% drop. Using the earliest number in 1933, the drop has been nearly 94%.
In comparison, fatal vehicular accident rates have dropped from 23.687 per 100,000 in 1933 to 11.324 per 100,000 in 2015, or a drop of 52%. That is a substantial drop, but not as impressive as the drop in fatal firearm accidents.
We know that the number of miles driven has increased significantly; we do not have similar figures for the amount of ammunition consumed.
The figure of 489 fatal firearm accidents in 2015 is the lowest undisputed number on record. In 2014, the CDC record shows a coding error. The number is stated as 586, but John Lott, who detected the error and informed the CDC, says the number should be 486.
The rate of fatal firearms accidents in 2015 was .15 per 100,000. If the 486 figure for 2014 is correct, that would also be .15 fatal firearm accidents per 100,000.
For those who wish the individual numbers by year, to create your own graphics, the numbers for all three sources may be found at the link below.
Data for Rate of Fatal Firearm Accidents.
©2017 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.