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Journal Issue: Children, Youth, and Gun Violence Volume 12 Number 2 Summer/Fall 2002

Product-Oriented Approaches to Reducing Youth Gun Violence
Stephen P. Teret Patti L. Culross


Injury prevention experts have suggested that gun manufacturers could reduce youth violence by changing the design of guns. Product safety features could make guns more difficult for children to fire unintentionally and more difficult to use if stolen or obtained illegally.

This article gives a brief history of efforts to make safer, smarter guns and assesses the potential of the product safety approach for reducing youth gun violence. Among the article's key findings:

  • Research from the injury prevention field suggests that changing product design may be more effective in preventing injuries than trying to change personal behaviors;

  • Existing product safety technologies for guns could reduce unintentional gun injuries, especially to young children. In addition, emerging technologies will enable gun manufacturers to "personalize" guns, which could prevent unauthorized users of any age from firing the weapons. Personalization could decrease access to guns by adolescents;

  • Gun manufacturers have been slow to incorporate safety features into their products; but legislative, regulatory, and litigation efforts are under way to mandate safer guns.

The authors envision a future when the law requires product safety features—including personalization—on all new firearms. These product safety features have the potential to reduce both intentional and unintentional firearm injury and death.