Safe Storage Gun Laws: Accidental Deaths, Suicides, and Crime

Posted: 6 May 2002

See all articles by John R. Lott

John R. Lott

Crime Prevention Research Center

John E Whitley

Crime Prevention Research Center; Institute for Defense Analyses

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It is frequently assumed that safe storage gun laws reduce accidental gun deaths and total suicides, while the possible impact on crime rates are ignored. However, given existing work on the adverse impact of other safety laws, such as safety caps for storing medicine, even the very plausible assumption of reduced accidental gun deaths cannot be taken for granted. Our paper analyzes both state and county data spanning nearly twenty years. Because accidental shooters also tend to be the ones most likely to violate the new law, safe storage laws have no observable benefit in terms of reduced accidents or suicides. To the extent these storage requirements impair people's ability to use guns defensively they risk increasing violent and property crimes. During the first five full years after the passage of the safe storage laws, the group of fifteen states that adopted these laws faced an annual average increase of over 300 more murders, 3,860 more rapes, 24,650 more robberies, and over 25,000 more aggravated assaults. On average, the annual costs borne by victims averaged over $2.6 billion as a result of lost productivity, out-of-product expenses, medical bills, and property losses.

Suggested Citation

Lott, John R. and Whitley, John E, Safe Storage Gun Laws: Accidental Deaths, Suicides, and Crime. Available at SSRN:

John R. Lott (Contact Author)

Crime Prevention Research Center ( email )

PO Box 2293
1100 W Kent Ave
Missoula, MT 59801
United States

John E Whitley

Crime Prevention Research Center ( email )

PO Box 3234
Alexandria, VA
United States

Institute for Defense Analyses ( email )

4850 Mark Center Dr
Alexandria, VA 22311
United States


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