Publication Date: 
Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The Problem: Firearms accounted for 39,659 deaths and 71,417 injuries in 2017. CDC:Faststats Firearms are used in 84 percent of the homicides of individuals between the ages 10 and 24. CDC: Youth Violence Fact Sheet.

The Law: Child access prevention (CAP) laws are a relatively recent legislative intervention intended to prevent firearm injuries caused by children by limiting their access to firearms. CAP laws establish criminal penalties for owners who do not store their firearms appropriately (e.g., unloaded, in a locked compartment). It is a felony offense for an owner under some CAP laws if an injury results from a child accessing an unsecured gun. In 2008, 27 states and the District of Columbia had adopted CAP laws. Legal Community Against Violence: CAP Laws Brief. For examples of CAP laws, see F.S. § 790.174(Florida), Texas Penal Code Annotated § 46.13(Texas) and CGS §29-37i(Connecticut). 

The Evidence: In a systematic review, Hahn et al. reviewed three studies that measured the impact of CAP laws on juvenile unintentional firearm-related deaths.  Hahn et al. Firearms laws and the reduction of violence: a systemic review. Am J Prev Med. 2005;28(2S1):40-71. One of the three studies examined the impact of CAP laws on firearm-related and non-firearm-related juvenile suicides and homicides. The second study evaluated the impact of CAP laws on overall violent outcomes (all homicide, aggravated assault, robbery, and rape) to test the hypothesis that CAP laws impede self-defense. The third study measured the impact of unintentional firearm-related deaths among juveniles under the age of 15 in states with felony CAP laws. The findings on juvenile homicide and violent outcomes were inconsistent and mostly lacked statistical significance. A few of the underlying studies found associations between CAP laws and juvenile violent outcomes in a few states. However, the reviewers did not view the available evidence as sufficient to establish the effectiveness of CAP laws as a public health intervention.    

The Bottom Line: Although CAP laws may represent a promising intervention for reducing gun-related morbidity and mortality among children, in the judgment of a Community Guide expert panel, there is currently insufficient evidence to validate their effectiveness as a public health intervention aimed at reducing gun-related harms.

Impact: Uncertain