Shooting sports safer than ever

Despite what many people think, hunting and firearms-related sports like trap, skeet and pistol shooting are safe and getting safer. According to information released by the National Safety Council, unintentional firearms fatalities are becoming fewer every year. A recent report published by the NSC states, in the last two decades, the number of unintentional firearms-related fatalities has declined by 57 percent. The report also notes that firearms are involved in fewer than one-half percent of all unintentional fatalities in the United States. In a side-by-side comparison, firearms rank among the lowest causes of injury. Firearms are involved in fewer than 1.8 percent of unintentional fatalities among children 14 years of age and under and are among the least likely causes of an unintentional fatality for children in that age group.

Firearms safety experts attribute this dramatic decline to mandatory firearms safety education programs, along with educational efforts by groups such as the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the National Rifle Association, in addition to state-affiliated hunter education programs.

Industry-related initiatives include educational programs such as the National Shooting Sports Foundation's Project ChildSafe, the inclusion of free firearm-locking devices voluntarily supplied by firearms manufacturers with all new firearms purchases, and technological advances in firearm designs and manufacturing processes.

It’s a sobering fact that a person is 58 times more likely to be seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident than they are with a firearm. Not only that, statistics show the rate of unintentional firearm fatalities is substantially lower than the rate of motor vehicle fatalities. Around the home, poisoning, falls, fire and smoke along with choking incidents cause 85 percent of all home deaths. Only 0.6 of 1 percent of home fatalities are caused by firearms.

So, the next time you hear someone say, “guns are dangerous,” be sure to inform them of the findings in the report of the National Safety Council. It’s hard to refute the facts.

It should be noted however, while injuries involving firearms are on the decline, injuries related to falls from treestands are not. Each year I hear about or read reports of someone being killed or seriously injured while attempting to build or install a treestand. To my knowledge, neither the New York Department of Environmental Conservation nor the Pennsylvania Game Commission keep a record of the number of people hurt in such accidents, and I feel they should because the numbers are significant. I still know hunters who climb trees and hunt from treestands without wearing a safety harness attached to a safety line.The biggest danger to hunters during big game season is not in getting shot, but suffering injury or death from a fall from a tree. Cold, wet, snowy conditions can cause ice to build up on the treestand platforms and this greatly increases the possibility of a fall. These falls are entirely preventable providing a hunter takes the proper precautions. I’ve heard hunters say, “safety vests are expensive,” and I have to ask them “what’s a broken back worth?”

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