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Background

10 Unbelievable but True Facts about Firearms' Deadly Exemption from Health and Safety Standards

  • Consider this: firearms cause more deaths a year than the 15,000 consumer products regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission combined. In 1999 alone, 28,874 Americans died by gunfire and more than twice that number were treated in emergency rooms for nonfatal gunshot injuries.

  • Firearms and tobacco are the only consumer products available on the market not subject to any federal health and safety standards.

  • There's no question that guns-like prescription drugs, insecticides, household chemicals, and many other products commonly found in American homes-are inherently dangerous. You can't use them without risking injury to yourself or to bystanders. Yet it's possible to regulate guns for health and safety as we have regulated all other inherently dangerous products. For more information, go to Health and Safety Standards for Everyday Products

  • Lack of health and safety regulation means that there is no way to recall defective firearms, no way to apply minimum size standards or mandate safety devices, no detailed data collection on deaths and injuries, and no way to ban products that cause unreasonable risk of injury or death.

  • No federal agency has the authority to restrict the availability-or prevent the introduction onto the civilian market-of firearms that pose a serious threat to public safety, such as 50 caliber sniper rifles. These very high caliber, long range sniper rifles were designed for military use and are capable of shooting down aircraft and penetrating armor. Yet they are easier to buy than handguns. For more information, go to the Violence Policy Center's study One Shot, One Kill: Civilian Sales of Military Sniper Rifles at (this link will take you out of www.regulateguns.org).

  • Many firearms contain defects in design or manufacture making them likely to unintentionally discharge. Currently, the only protection consumers have is to sue after someone has already been injured or killed by a defective gun. Please see the fact sheet Dangerously Flawed Firearms, CBS Evening News story "Fixing a Fatal Flaw" at
    and the press release "Remington's 'Safety Modification Program' Inadequate for Protecting Consumers" at (these links will take you out of www.regulateguns.org).

  • No federal agency has the power to set mandatory standards for firearm safety devices such as trigger locks. In 2000 the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) conducted informal tests on 32 gun locks-16 trigger locks and 16 cable locks. Most of the locks failed. Some could be opened with a paperclip or a pair of tweezers, and some opened just by banging the lock on a table or by hitting it with a hammer. Many firearm safety devices on the market give consumers nothing more than a false sense of security.

  • Because no federal agency regulates guns, there is no national data collected on the total number of gun-related deaths and injuries other than general data from death certificates. There is no reliable way to get the total number of deaths from handguns, rifles or shotguns-let alone the number of deaths and injuries by firearm make and model.

  • The hazardous effects of firearms and ammunition on the environment and public health are enormous, yet no agency can regulate excessive lead exposure from shooting ranges. Numerous studies-since the 1970's-have documented that outdoor shooting ranges are major sources of lead pollution in the environment , and that indoor shooting ranges are significant sources of lead poisoning among people who use them. For more information, go to the Violence Policy Center's study Poisonous Pastime: The Health Risks of Shooting Ranges and Lead to Children, Families and Environment at (this link will take you out of www.regulateguns.org).

  • The cost of providing medical care for firearm-related injuries is estimated to be $4 billion a year-with much of the financial cost passed on to private health insurance subscribers and taxpayers.


How Would Health and Safety Regulation Reduce
Gun Deaths and Injuries?

  • Health and safety regulation would reduce gun suicides by: mandating warnings on packaging about gun ownership and the increased risks of suicide; developing a tracing system for guns most commonly used in suicide, like the system currently used to trace guns seized at crime, to identify patterns and restrict the most commonly-used guns; and taking action against corrupt guns dealers so that guns now obtained illegally can be intercepted before they reach the hands of young people who often use them to commit suicide.

  • Health and safety regulation would reduce gun homicides by: restricting the availability of certain types of guns and ammunition most commonly used in homicides such as "Saturday Night Specials," new "sporterized" assault weapons, and other firearms that pose a serious threat to public safety, such as .50 sniper rifles; taking action against bad gun retailers who are knowingly providing firearms to felons, juveniles, or other persons prohibited from possessing firearms; and educating the public regarding the link between access to firearms (especially handguns) and increased risk of homicide.

  • Health and safety regulation would reduce unintentional gun deaths (accidents) by: making sure firearm manufacturers recall, repair, or replace defective guns, or refund consumers as necessary; evaluating and requiring simple safety devices that currently exist to prevent unintentional shootings, such as load indicators and magazine disconnect devices.

  • Health and safety regulation would reduce gun-related crimes by: restricting the availability of specific firearms or classes of firearms to prevent unreasonable risk of injury to the general public-guns such as the TEC-DC9 used in the Columbine massacre; allowing emergency action to protect the public from "imminently hazardous" firearm products; tightening the existing restrictions on certain firearms--such as the assault weapons ban--without the need for Congressional action.

There is a Solution

Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is working to end the gun industry's immunity from health and safety regulation. CFA and more than 120 national and state and local organizations support The Firearms Safety and Consumer Protection Act (S. 330 and H.R. 671), which would subject the gun industry to the same health and safety regulation as virtually all other consumer products sold in America. S. 330 and H.R. 671 would give the Department of the Treasury consumer protection authority to regulate the design, manufacture, and distribution of firearms and ammunition, with the ability to:

  • set minimum health and safety standards;

  • issue recalls and warnings;

  • collect data on gun-related deaths and injuries;

  • and ban products when no other remedy is sufficient.

The Firearms Safety and Consumer Protection Act would not limit the public's access to guns for legitimate sporting purposes. Just a regulation of pesticides did not lead to an outright ban on their use, neither would expanding the Department of the Treasury's authority result in a gun-free United States. This is what it would do:

  • reduce the availability of guns most often used by criminals, and restrict possession of guns by minors;

  • protect purchasers and gun consumers from products that present a serious risk of injury because of a manufacturing defect, and;

  • decrease gun death and injury by identifying firearms that are exceptionally prone to use in homicides, suicides, and unintentional shootings, and restrict availability of such guns.

Regulating the gun industry puts the focus where it belongs-on the conduct of gun manufacturers. To learn more, please go to Top Ten Questions about the Firearms Safety and Consumer Protection Act and CFA's other fact sheets.



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