To the Editor:
The March 16-22 edition of The Connection carried an “Education=Learning=Fun” column headlined “Do You Keep a Gun In Your Home?” I thought the topic a bit unusual for that column. I also noted that the headline was misleading since the column focused not on whether the reader has a gun in the home, but whether the reader should ask other people whether they have guns in their homes.
My children are grown, but when they were younger, I focused on knowing the parents of their friends to determine whether I believed it was safe for my children to visit their homes. Admittedly, it was a time when parents seemed to worry less, and when they did worry, it was more about real danger.
That said, I understand parents wanting to keep their children safe, accordingly I would recommend parents inquire concerning the following about the homes their children might visit. I am basing my recommendations on 2009 statistics from the Center for Disease Control concerning “unintentional deaths,” which we regular people call “accidents:” (Dated numbers because it takes awhile for the USG to put our their figures.)
Does the home have a swimming pool? (drowning was responsible for 31 percent of deaths of 1-4 year olds; 15 percent of 5-9; 10 percent of 10-14)
Are they going to drive anywhere? (motor vehicle - responsible for 25 percent of 1-4; 49 percent 5-9; 68 percent 10-14.)
Do they have fire extinguishers and smoke detectors? (fire/burns responsible for 11 percent 1-4; 11 percent 5-9; 6 percent 10-14.)
To put things in perspective, homicide (all causes) was responsible for 8 percent, 5 percent, and 6 percent of the deaths in those respective groups. Unintentional death by firearm for children 0-14 in 2006 (as reported in the CDC’s 2009 report) was just over one percent of all deaths in that age group. (That is about where it runs every year).
Unfortunately, in this country people are rather bad about assessing relative risk. Many people are afraid of commercial flight, but are much more at risk in their private automobile; are terrified of snakes, but many more die from insect stings and bites. Parents obsess about guns but think nothing of letting their children be around swimming pools or ride in boats without wearing personal flotation devices; frighten their children so much about “stranger danger” that they won’t seek help from people they don’t know, even though most abuse and abduction of children is carried out by people the children know.
(Many of the figures I quoted are not current. Reliable statistics concerning accidents, death, and other social and economic information about this country is increasingly difficult to obtain for the average person since the Department of Commerce in 2012 ceased publishing, in order to save $2.9 million and eliminate 24 jobs, the very useful reference, “Statistical Abstract of the United States” which the government had published since 1878. Commercial versions are available at 300 percent to 400 percent of the former cost.)
H M Padon