SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Missouri had the fourth highest rate of gun deaths in the nation in the most recent data from the CDC according to the Centers for Disease Control. Though the majority of these are intentional deaths, many are accidental.

Several recent incidents Ozarks First has covered in Springfield include a woman who claimed to have accidentally shot her daughter in July 2022. A 20-year-old man was charged with accidentally shooting and killing another in Greene County in July. An Evangel student who is charged with unintentionally killing another student in 2020 has a court date next January.

It can be difficult to measure how many gun deaths are accidental. Whether it’s due to a lack of evidence, or simply a lack of witnesses, some accidental gun deaths may be included in Missouri’s homicides and suicides. Missouri had a 23.9 per 100,000 rate of firearm mortality in 2020, beaten only by Wyoming, Louisiana, and Mississippi’s first-place rate, which is 28.6 per 100,000.

According to the National Safety Council, the odds of a person dying from an accidental gun discharge in the United States is 1 in 7,998. We have a 1 in 221 chance of dying by gun assault in the United States. According to information released by the CDC in May 2022, the firearm homicide rate increased by about 35% between 2019 and 2020.

Accidental shootings — as are all forms of shootings — are nearly completely avoidable. Missouri is a permitless carry state, which means that any resident may conceal-carry or open-carry a gun as long as they have not been forbidden to do so due to criminal history or other special circumstances.

People are not required to have a permit to carry a gun in Missouri. However, people have the option of getting a concealed carry permit that allows them to do more than someone who does not have one. Still, going through the classes to get a permit may teach people how to properly use their weapons.

Roger Moore is a co-owner and instructor for Peacekeepers Training, a company that trains citizens looking to get their concealed carry weapon permit and professionals seeking law enforcement training.

“There are four cardinal rules of firearm safety,” Moore said. Those are:

1. Treat every gun like it’s loaded.

2. Don’t point it at anything you don’t want to destroy.

3. Keep your finger off the trigger until you’ve made the decision to fire the weapon and you’re on your target.

4. Be sure of what’s around your target. Every round you shoot is going to hit something.

Moore amended his list with another rule to help people avoid unintentional misfires: be sure weapons are secure when they are around small children.

“If we do those five things, we can virtually eliminate accidental shootings completely,” Moore said.