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Safe Storage Gun Laws: Accidental Deaths, Suicides and Crime


  • John R. Lott, Jr.

    (School of Law, Yale University)

  • John Whitley

    (School of Economics, University of Adelaide)


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, and we find no support that safe storage laws reduce either juvenile accidental gun deaths or suicides. Instead, these storage requirements appear to impair people's ability to use guns defensively. Because accidental shooters also tend to be the ones most likely to violate the new law, safe storage laws increase violent and property crimes against low risk citizens with no observable offsetting benefit in terms of reduced accidents or suicides. 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-pocket expenses, medical bills, and property losses.

Suggested Citation

  • John R. Lott, Jr. & John Whitley, 2001. "Safe Storage Gun Laws: Accidental Deaths, Suicides and Crime," School of Economics Working Papers 2001-06, University of Adelaide, School of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:adl:wpaper:2001-06

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ayres, Ian & Donohue, John J, III, 1999. "Nondiscretionary Concealed Weapons Laws: A Case Study of Statistics, Standards of Proof, and Public Policy [Review Article]," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 1(1-2), pages 436-470, Fall.
    2. Lott, John R, Jr & Mustard, David B, 1997. "Crime, Deterrence, and Right-to-Carry Concealed Handguns," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 26(1), pages 1-68, January.
    3. Lott, John R, Jr, 1998. "The Concealed-Handgun Debate," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 27(1), pages 221-243, January.
    4. Black, Dan A & Nagin, Daniel S, 1998. "Do Right-to-Carry Laws Deter Violent Crime?," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 27(1), pages 209-219, January.
    5. Peterson, Steven & Hoffer, George & Millner, Edward, 1995. "Are Drivers of Air-Bag-Equipped Cars More Aggressive? A Test of the Offsetting Behavior Hypothesis," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 38(2), pages 251-264, October.
    6. Peltzman, Sam, 1975. "The Effects of Automobile Safety Regulation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 83(4), pages 677-725, August.
    7. Bartley, William Alan & Cohen, Mark A, 1998. "The Effect of Concealed Weapons Laws: An Extreme Bound Analysis," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 36(2), pages 258-265, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. H. Naci Mocan & Erdal Tekin, 2003. "Guns, Drugs and Juvenile Crime: Evidence from a Panel of Siblings and Twins," NBER Working Papers 9824, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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    gun control; crime; suicide; accidental death;


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