Every year, nearly 3000 children and teens die from gunfire, and nearly 14,000 are injured.

Child Access Prevention Laws Save Lives


Child Access Prevention (CAP) laws are common-sense legislation that require gun owners to store their weapons in such a way as to prevent access by minors without appropriate supervision.  As of 2008, 27 states and the District of Columbia had CAP laws, according to a Legal Community Against Violence February 2008 report.  At least three large cities also have CAP laws (Chicago, Cleveland, and Portland).    

CAP laws require parents to be more responsible and safeguard children, just as with current laws mandating child safety seats in vehicles, laws requiring helmets on children on bikes and motorcycles, and child labor laws.  Most responsible families already store their firearms safely, so it is not an additional burden for those families.  Sadly, many gun owners do not act responsibly.  The result is an unnecessarily high rate of deaths and injuries of children due to accidental discharge and suicide, and the potential of criminal usage by children.  

See below for statistics showing that CAP lows significantly reduce shooting accidents and suicides, and not just for kids.  Also, click on many of the links in the sidebar to the right.

Consider the following statistics:
  • More than 40% of gun-owning households with children store their guns unlocked (Schuster, 2000).
  • One fourth of homes with children and guns have a loaded firearm, and between 6% and 14% of firearm owning households with a child under 18 have an unlocked and loaded firearm (Johnson, 2004).
  • More than 75% of the guns used in youth suicide attempts and unintentional injuries were stored in the residence of the victim, a relative, or a friend (Grossman, 1999).
  • The risk of suicide increases in homes where guns are kept loaded and/or unlocked (Miller, 1999).
  • Between 1999-2007, 84 Oregon children died from firearms in suicides, and 15 died in unintentional shootings.  The rate of suicides due to firearms for that age group was higher for Oregon than the overall rate for the United States (1.04 / 100,000 population, compared to 0.81 / 100,000) (CDC WISQARS database).
  • On average, one child every three days died in accidental incidents in the United States from 2000 to 2005 (CDC data).
  • In October of 2000, the U.S. Secret Service published a study of 37 school shootings in 26 states.  That study found that in more than 65% of the cases, the attacker got the gun from his or her own home or that of a relative (U.S. Secret Service, 2000).
  • In 12 states where CAP laws had been in effect for at least one year, unintentional firearm deaths fell by 23% from 1990-94 among children under 15 years old (Cummings, 1997).
  • CAP laws are correlated with reducing gun suicides among those aged 14 through 17 by 10.8%, and a reduction of 8.3% by any method (Webster, 2004).
  • CAP laws are correlated with a reduction of non-fatal gun injuries among both children and adults by 30-40% (DeSimone, 2005).
  • In most states CAP laws are misdemeanors.  In some, such as Florida, they can be charged as felonies.  CAP laws are most highly correlated with reductions of non-fatal gun injuries in states where violations are considered felonies, whereas in states that consider violations as misdemeanors, the potential impact of CAP laws is not statistically significant (Webster, 2000).
  • In the state of Florida, the first state to implement such a law, over an 8 year post-law period the unintentional firearm death in children was reduced by 51 percent. (Webster, 2000)
Would the passage of a state-wide CAP law mean that the government is stepping in and overruling a parent's right to govern themselves and their kids as they see fit?  Yes, to a certain extent, just as with other child safety laws.  Some will argue that the loss in "liberty" CAP laws represent is a burden that can't be justified, or that children have a right to access and use of weapons without parental supervision.  But most responsible families agree that the well-being of our children and families is worth that small price.  This is not a loss of liberty at all, since it does not overrule the right to self-protection, but rather it is the responsibility of our government to safeguard the general welfare of its people.

Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult.

Statistics sources:
Cummings, Peter, David C. Grossman, Frederick P. Rivara, Thomas D. Koepsell (1997). "State Gun Safe Storage Laws and Child Mortality Due to Firearms". Journal of the American Medical Association 278 (13): 1084–1086.

DeSimone, Jeff, Sara Markowitz (September 2005). "The Effect of Child Access Prevention Laws on Non-Fatal Gun Injuries". NBER Working Paper No. 11613. National Bureau of Economic Research. http://www.nber.org/papers/W11613.

Grossman, David C., Donald T. Reay, Stephanie A. Baker, "Self-inflicted and unintentional firearm injuries among children and adolescents: The source of the firearm". 153 Arch. Pediatr. Adolesc. med. 875, 875.  (August, 1999).

Johnson, Renee M., MPH, Tamera Coyne-Beasley, MD, MPH, and Carol W. Runyan, PhD. “Firearm Ownership and Storage Practices, U.S. Households, 1992-2002.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine 27 (2004): 173-82

Miller, Matthew and David Hemenway. 1999. "The relationship between firearms and suicide: A review of the literature". 4 Aggression & Violent Behavior 59, 62-65 (summarizing the findings of multiple studies).

Schuster, Mark A., Franke, Todd M., Bastian, Amy M., Sor, Sinaroth, Halfon, Neal. "Firearm Storage Patterns in U.S. Homes With Children," American Journal of Public Health 90(4) (April 2000):588-594

United States Secret Service, U.S. Department of the Treasury. October 2000. "An interim report on the prevention of targeted violence in schools" 6.

Webster, D.W., M. Starnes (2000). "Reexamining the association between child access prevention gun laws and unintentional shooting deaths of children". Pediatric 106 (6): 1466–1469.

Webster, Daniel, John Vernick, et al. (2004). "Association between Youth-Focused Firearm Laws and Youth Suicides". Journal of the American Medical Association 292 (5): 594–601.

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