Firearm sales hit a record high last year as the FBI processed more than 27.5 million background checks on gun buyers. This year, sales have eased up a bit, but they’re still on track to hit the second-highest number ever.

Despite the dramatic increase in the number of guns in circulation, though, there was an interesting statistic that dropped. No, it wasn’t the crime rate, which, although substantially lower than it was decades ago, has been inching higher in recent periods. Instead it was the number of accidental firearms fatalities.

A SHOT IN THE DARK

It’s believed by many that the proliferation of firearms will increase the number of violent crimes committed, as well as the number of accidental deaths. For example, it’s often cited that access to firearms increases the risk for suicide and being the victim of homicide, since, by owning a gun, you’re supposedly more likely to kill a family member than a criminal.

Laying aside for a moment the mistaken idea that the purpose of owning a gun is to kill a criminal — a deterrent to a crime is a big factor — FBI data shows that the number of homicides committed with a firearm are steadily falling. For example, handguns are still the leading weapon used to commit a homicide, but the number has fallen 9% between 2010 and 2014, the latest data available, despite the number of pistols and revolvers produced increasing 61% over that same time frame.

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