Vehicular Fatalities vs Fatal Firearms Accidents in the U.S. 1965-2013


Dean WeingartenThere have been some misleading comparisons of “vehicle deaths” and “firearm deaths”.

The misleading characteristic is to compare vehicle deaths, which are mainly unintentional, with deaths associated with firearms, which are mainly intentional and not accidental.

The correct comparison with fatal vehicle crashes would be to fatal firearm accidents.

The claim has been made that vehicles have been highly regulated, and that is why the number of fatalities have been reduced, while firearms have not been regulated.

If you look at the chart, you see that accidental firearms fatalities, though much lower than vehicle fatalities to start with, have been reduced at an even more rapid rate.

In order to show both sets of fatal accident numbers, the vehicle fatalities have been reduced by 10x to fit them on the chart.  In 2013, the number of vehicle fatalities is at a historic low of 32,719.  The number of fatal firearm accidents is also at an historic low, 505.

This has occurred while the number of firearms has far outpaced the number of vehicles.


It is not hard to understand. Firearms are very durable, and take centuries to wear out with normal usage. Vehicles wear out in a decade or two, and constantly have to be replaced.

In the last few years, vehicle purchases have lagged, and many older vehicles were destroyed. Firearms manufacturers have enjoyed record levels of sales.

In spite of government regulation or the lack of it, the shapes of the two levels of fatal accidents show a general downward similarity. This indicates that factors other than government regulation are the primary causes.


  • Number of Highway Vehicles:  From  by year from 1965 to 2004 was used to check the numbers at 5 year intervals.  From 2005 to 2013 tables were used.
  • Number of highway vehicle fatalities from
  • Number of Private firearms in the United States, 1945 to 2012 from a previous article at Gun Watch.  The 2013 number was calculated using the same methodology and ATF sources as in the article.
  • Unintentional firearm fatalities, 1965-1987, from Kleck, Point Blank Page 306 Table 7.1
  • 1981-2000 unintentional firearm fatalities from An Analysis of Firearm-Related Accidents in the United States;  rates from Kleck or calculated using Census figures.
  • 1999-2013 unintentional firearm fatalities and per capita rates available in WISQARS.


About Dean Weingarten;

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of constitutional carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

©2014 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included. Link to Gun Watch

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