A great deal of media attention is necessarily paid to mass shootings which occur with shocking regularity in the United States. In appreciating the tragic nature of these events, statistically speaking, more than one person is killed every day due to accidental shooting in the United States.
Accidental Shooting Death Statistics in the United States
According to the data maintained by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as reported in the Los Angeles Times, 489 people were killed in the United States because of accidental shootings during the last year. The number of people killed across the country 15 years ago was 824. Taking into account the population increase, the rate of people killed by accidental shootings dropped by 48 percent during this period. There was a decrease in accidental gun shooting incidents in all 50 states.
Several reasons exist for the overall decrease in accidental shootings in the United States:
- Gun safety education programs
- State laws regulating residential gun storage
- A decrease in the number of households with guns
Death by accidental shooting comprises of just over 1 percent of all gun killings in the United States annually. In the same year that 489 people killed by accidental shootings, a total of 36,247 individuals were shot to death in the United States.
85 percent of people killed in accidental shootings are male. Over 25 percent of these men are between the ages of 15 and 24. The next highest percentage belong to those between the ages of 25 and 34.
Changes in Laws in Response to Accidental Shootings
Although Congress has taken no action to enact laws addressing accidental shooting deaths, 27 states have taken steps in recent years to enact laws. 14 of these states have passed laws imposing requirements on the way firearms are stored at home. In California, a law was passed that makes it a third-degree misdemeanor to knowingly keep a loaded firearm in a location where an unsupervised child can gain access to such a weapon.
The Aftermath of an Accidental Shooting Death in a Home
A significant percentage of accidental shooting deaths occur in people’s homes. No one can ever truly be prepared for this type of horrific event. However, there are some important steps to take in the aftermath of an accidental shooting death that occurred in a residence.
The obvious first step is calling 911, which is likely something that happens instinctively in most cases. 911 should be called even if it is clear that an individual did not survive an accidental shooting.
Paramedics and law enforcement officers will be dispatched to the residence where an accidental shooting resulting in death occurred. In California, paramedics have the legal authority to declare death in situations like this. In some states, the remains of a person killed in an accidental shooting have to be transported to a hospital for a doctor to issue a declaration of death.
The coroner’s office will also be dispatched to the scene of a shooting death. The remains of the deceased are transported to the coroner’s office for forensic examination. This is necessary because, even in the case of an accidental shooting, a crime may be charged. Reference is made to possible criminal prosecution, not to add more grief into a family’s life in which this type of shooting occurred, but because it is important to understand the full spectrum of consequences of an accidental shooting death.
In California, a coroner typically completes a forensic examination following an accidental shooting within 24 to 48 hours. A family has 72 hours after that to arrange for transport of the remains to a funeral home. Provided that a funeral home has been retained by a family, the funeral home will then make the transport arrangements from the coroner’s office.
Cleaning After an Accidental Shooting Death
One of the challenges faced following an accidental shooting death is cleaning the area in which the accident occurred. Blood and other biological materials contaminate the area where the accidental shooting happened. Technically speaking, this cleaning process is called biohazard remediation. (Keep in mind that the cleaning process cannot commence until the coroner and the law enforcement complete their investigation of the scene of the accidental shooting.)
This process includes four primary steps:
The cleaning process is designed to eliminate blood and biological material found in the room where an accidental shooting occurred. This is a floor to ceiling endeavor, which includes the room itself and items contained in it.
Sanitizing is designed to thoroughly eliminate anyany and all bacteria that may be present at the scene. Some individuals have bloodborne bacteria and viruses in their systems, which are released when a shooting occurs. Even if the deceased had no such condition, bacteria remains an issue. Bacteria can be an issue if even a short amount of time elapsed between the shooting and the start of the cleanup process.
Deodorization is also important. As is the case with sanitizing the scene, deodorizing the scene is vital if more than a day or two elapsed between the accidental shooting and the commencement of the cleaning process.
The ultimate objective is to restore the space where an accidental shooting occurred to a fully habitable environment.
The cleaning process necessitates the use of what is known as universal safety precautions. These are safety steps designed to protect an individual involved in the cleanup process from any harmful contaminants that might be contained in the blood or biological material. These precautions necessitate the utilization of safety gear that includes:
- Smock or apron
- Mask or respirator
Due to the personal impact of losing a family member to an accidental shooting, coupled with safety issues, engaging a professional biohazard remediation service is the recommended course of action to take.