No, Swimming Pools Are Not More Dangerous Than Guns


JC Schildbach, LMHC

With summer coming to its official end in a few days, we can all breathe a sigh of relief. Less time spent around swimming pools means less chance that swimming pools will kill us—because swimming pools are more dangerous than guns—right?

I hadn’t heard this particular claim from the pro-gun embracers of NRA misinformation until fairly recently. But, then, after a bit of poking around on the Internet, there it was—turning up in all kinds of discussion threads, with no citation of the information source, and rapidly morphing further and further from the truth to the point where pro-gun folks were saying only that ‘Swimming pools are more dangerous than guns’ or ‘More people die in swimming pools than from guns.’

Repeat a lie often enough, and people (who don’t bother to look into the facts, and who like the sound of the lie) will repeat it along with you.

With a few well-spent minutes with the latest Centers for Disease Control (CDC) statistics, I quickly realized that the claim was completely false.

Now, if you want to say that more U.S. children, age 14 and under, die from drowning than die from being shot, that is actually true. Of course, this is something like saying more U.S. children, age 14 and under, die from drowning than from heroin overdoses.  More nine-year-olds go swimming than are shooting up or packing heat.

However, once you add in the next age-based demographic group, which is 15- to 24-year-olds, the total number of deaths by drowning is easily eclipsed by the total number of deaths by firearm.

For a quick comparison of the 2013 CDC statistics:

Age 14 and under, deaths by drowning: 625

Age 14 and under, deaths by firearm (intentional and otherwise): 408

Age 15 to 24, deaths by drowning: 501

Age 15 to 24, deaths by firearm (intentional and otherwise): 6085

So, by including those people over the age of 14 in the statistics, the numbers skew undeniably toward guns being much more dangerous than swimming pools. Including all age groups in the U.S., there is a total of 3,391 drowning deaths to a total of 33,169 deaths by firearm.

Also, keep in mind that drowning does not only include swimming pools. It includes all drowning that is non-boating-related. Anybody who drowns in a bathtub, a lake, a river, an ocean, or any other body of water is included in the statistics. So, really, swimming pools would appreciate it if you would quit blaming them for all of the drowning deaths.

But, even if the statistics weren’t so blatantly obvious in spelling out the relative danger of guns versus drowning, the assertion of the relative danger of swimming pools versus guns is, on its face, rather stupid.

For instance, I could not pick up a swimming pool and walk into a school, a movie theater, or a church, and start drowning people with it.

Similarly, when a woman asks her estranged husband for a divorce, there’s something of a greater threat that he will get a gun, shoot her, all their children, and himself, than there is that he is going to drug any of them and pitch them into the backyard swimming pool. And, in case you hadn’t thought about it, a big chunk of those homicide-by-firearm statistics for the 14-and-under crowd involve fathers murdering their families.

We can even use the pro-gun folks’ favorite (albeit highly unlikely) scenario of a home invasion to show the ridiculousness of weighing the threat level of swimming pools versus guns. Your front door is kicked in, and three men storm in—shoot them (with the gun you keep at your side at all times in your home, just in case anybody kicks in your front door), or try to lure them into the swimming pool?

Just by the stationary nature of swimming pools, it’s relatively easy to steer clear of them, as well as most other bodies of water. But with the NRA pushing for everybody to have access to guns everywhere and at all times, concealed or open carry, who knows when you’re going to find yourself dealing with some Frank Castle wannabe or an aspiring Dylann Roof–who, by the way, thinks he’s one of the good guys with guns?

I suppose I could throw a bone to the pro-gun folks and say that in terms of accidental deaths, there are more deaths by drowning than deaths by accidental discharge of firearms across all age categories. Those totals—drowning: 3,391, accidental discharge of firearms: 505. Even if we add in the 281 deaths by firearm that may or may not have been intentional, deaths by drowning win by a pretty hefty margin over accidental and possibly-accidental deaths by firearm.  Still, a swimming pool, even in your own backyard, is less likely to be involved in the death of a family member than a gun you own, especially when you factor in the extreme number of suicides by firearm—21,175. Again, the swimming pool (or, I should say, bodies of water) could have an edge on killing your kids who are still under the age of 14, but after that age, the gun surges ahead by thousands.

Okay—I know that actually citing statistics with pro-gun people is about as useful as, say, asking my dogs to brush their own teeth. In fact, I can easily imagine the pro-gunners reading the paragraph immediately preceding this one and taking it as evidence that swimming pools are, in fact, more dangerous than guns. But I included it anyway, so that the overall picture is hopefully clearer, and so that any readers will have all the information they need to refute anyone who wants to claim that swimming pools are deadlier than guns.

But, if actually trying to provide information in a verbal argument becomes rather difficult, I put the information into some memes you can readily share. Just drag and drop to your desktop, and you can copy them into any comments-section argument where the swimming pool stats come up.

Here’s effort number one:


So, that was a bit wordy. Trying to be factually accurate in short format is kind of tricky. Let’s try that again.


Well, that was definitely better for brevity, but lets make it even simpler.


Or, you could take the quick and rude approach.  But be careful.  Gun lovers can be very sensitive.


Happy (and safe) swimming!

65 thoughts on “No, Swimming Pools Are Not More Dangerous Than Guns

  1. I do not take issue with guns or swimming pools – neither are particularly fun for me. That said, I never like imposing my will on others. So, my question is more one of statistical analysis than anything else.

    First, does it matter, when the goal is one of preventing deaths/preserving lives, that pools are not portable or designed for intentionally causing harm? The reality is that for something that is primarily for recreation, people are dying.

    Second, does the base rate fallacy come into play here? When measuring the number of pool deaths (regardless of age of the victim) don’t we need to compare the number of pools that there are in the US that are causing these deaths? For instance, if there were 10 pools in the US and they caused 100 accidental drownings, that would be 10 deaths per pool – pretty alarming. But, if there were 100,000,000,000,000 guns in the US that caused 101 deaths, I would say that guns are less dangerous than pools.

    Does that make sense?

  2. I see what you’re getting at—but unless you use accurate statistics to make the comparison, it’s just another diversion—like claiming that swimming pools are more deadly than guns. For one, the statistics for drowning deaths, as I point out in the piece, involve drowning deaths from all bodies of water–swimming pools, lakes, rivers, oceans, etc.–not just swimming pools. There are an estimated 9 million total public and private swimming pools in the U.S. So, if all the drowning deaths actually took place in swimming pools (and none took place in lakes, oceans, or non-swimming-pool bodies of water), that would come to about .0003 drowning deaths per swimming pool. There are somewhere around 300 million guns in the United States. So, if you parse that out, it turns out to be about .0001 deaths per gun. So, again, if the drownings were all actually attributed to swimming pools, swimming pools would arguably be more dangerous in terms of average number of deaths per pool vs. average number of deaths per gun. That said, since swimming pools can’t be moved, maybe looking at the statistics a little differently might get a better comparison: total number of drowning deaths relative to total number of households with a swimming pool versus total number of gun-related deaths relative to total number of households with guns. Here, again, we will skew the statistics against pools by assuming that all drowning deaths are from household pools, while also assuming that only half of all swimming pools are private household pools (even though there are many more privately-owned pools than publicly-owned pools, and, again, those drowning deaths are not all from pools). That would bump our per-capita drowning death to near .0007 per pool. Now, with about 125 million households in the U.S. and about a third of those households owning guns, you are looking at a per capita rate of .0008 gun-related deaths per gun-owning household. And, actually, a household-based rate makes a fair bit of sense, since having a gun in the home greatly increases the likelihood that a member of that household will be killed with a (or one of the) gun(s). All the statistical analysis aside, there are still plenty of problems with the idea of relative risk—such as that I can avoid swimming pools, thereby mitigating my chances of drowning (especially if we’re blaming all drowning deaths on swimming pools), but the more we allow people to have guns and to have them on their person at all times, the more difficult it becomes for me to steer clear of situations where guns can come into play. I could go on, but since you brought up the idea of “imposing my will on others”—who is being imposed on more, the people who insist they have not only the right to own deadly weapons, but also the right to carry them around wherever they want; or the people having to put up with potentially being surrounded by a bunch of untrained people carrying deadly weapons wherever they go?

  3. The original research from Freakonomics ( google it ) is based on deaths per item not total numbers of deaths and as above there are far more guns in private homes than swimming pools so it is statistically true that having a pool at home is more likely to kill kids than having a gun . This whole article is a straw man argument typical of the anti gun crowd . > its so easy to find the source yet they failed to do so because their argument would be shown as a straw man so they didn’t bother to do so IMHO

  4. As the post above points out, the argument morphed from the original argument regarding “deaths per item” or “deaths per household” as relates to children, to simple statements that pools are more dangerous than guns, or that pools cause more deaths than guns. It is true that more children under the age of 14 die from drowning than die from being shot–a point that the post also makes. I am familiar with the Freakonomics info, and reviewed it prior to writing the above post–I note that the people advancing the swimming pools vs. guns argument rarely cite the source, or clarify any of the subtleties of the argument. But, as is typical of the pro-gun crowd, their takeaway from the Freakonomics information is that pools are more dangerous than guns–or cause more deaths than guns–absolutely false for total numbers, and absolutely false for people over the age of 14. Furthermore, that argument ignores the vastly different risks represented from each based on the way the items are used/can be used (again, nobody is going to bring a pool into a food court and start drowning people in it). Your own statement is that “having a pool at home is more likely to kill kids than having a gun.” That statement in and of itself is not about “deaths per item” but about “deaths per household” based on ownership of a particular item–which, properly speaking, would need to take into a great many other factors, such as accounting for varying levels of exposure to the items–as in, a pool in the yard and accessible at any time year-round, versus guns, which hopefully are being stored properly; and children often being allowed to go swimming–or be out in the yard–with minimal or no supervision, versus parents not deliberately giving their children access to guns. Also, a straw man argument is one where the argument is set up in such a a way that it is easily knocked down–generally by mis-characterizing the opponent’s argument–but I noted where the relative danger of pools is actually greater than guns, as well as looking at a number of the reasons the swimming pool argument does not hold up overall as an indication of comparable relative risk.

  5. And the article states 33,000+ deaths by gun but well over half of those are suicides. Don’t think too many suicides are by drowning.

  6. You have to omit suicide from the analysis. The argument has always been about intentional harm to others (and they sometimes throw in accidental use to bolster their case). Suicides are not valid in that argument.

  7. Actually, as noted in the post, the original argument had to do with deaths of children if one had a swimming pool versus whether one had a gun in the home. But, hey–have it your way–take out all the suicides. It still pans out to about 12,000 gun deaths compared to 3,100 drownings (again, drownings in all bodies of water, by all age groups–not just swimming pools, and not just children in swimming pools). Anyway, even if we take out the 786 accidental + maybe-accidental gun deaths, that’s still about 11,200 compared to 3,100. I’m no mathemetician, but I think the guns still win in the killing department.

  8. Clearly, you’re NOT a mathematician! First off, the argument is generally NOT that “more people are killed by pools than guns,” but rather more people are ACCIDENTALLY killed by pools than guns. But if you insist on using the argument above comparing INTENTIONAL gun deaths, versus ACCIDENTAL drownings, then you find that yes, indeed pools are more dangerous, since there are only about 8,000,000 pools, and yet there are over 300,000,000 guns. So, adjusting for the numbers, (and comparing them in this silly way) pools would still be over 10 times more likely to cause a death than a gun. Try comparing apples-to-apples!

  9. Yes, the original argument that spawned the idea that swimming pools are more dangerous than guns was about whether there was more likely to be an accidental death in the home if a family owned a swimming pool vs. owning a gun. And, in fact, I touched on the accidental death argument in the post (yes, more people die accidentally from swimming pools in the home than from guns, particularly when you look at the large disparity in the numbers for pool ownership vs. gun ownership). However, if you really want to compare apples to apples, then swimming pools vs. guns doesn’t make much sense anyway. The swimming pools in question usually sit out in the backyard, accessible by children at all times. I would hope people who own guns and have children don’t just leave their guns loaded and sitting around in the backyard.

  10. Try reading all of the above comments. Also, the article you posted is using statistics from a wide range of years, from 2000 to 2010 (none of them the most recent statistics for any of the categories the article explores), and skewing many of those statistics. Again, accidental deaths by drowning are somewhat higher than accidental deaths by firearms discharge, and when weighted for number of homes with pools versus number of homes with firearms, yes, the statistical average for accidental deaths is higher with swimming pools. Again, though, when you add in all deaths by firearm vs. swimming pool, the guns handily beat out swimming pools–and since a majority of the people killed by guns are killed by the guns they keep in their own homes, well, draw your own conclusions. And, yet again, how about if you leave your loaded guns (like families “leave” swimming pools) where all your family members have easy access to them, out in the backyard, every day of the year, and see what happens.

  11. I’m just wondering who is worrying about their 15-24 yr old around a pool? or better yet, who is worried about their 14 yr old? or even 13 yr old around a pool? When we talk about “accidental drowning” we’re generally talking about little kids and those kids who don’t know how to swim. MOST 4 yr olds don’t know how to swim, or at least swim well, but I would posit that MOST 10 yr olds do know how to swim, or at least have the cognitive recognition to know they don’t know how to swim. Pools aren’t generally dangerous to most kids over 10 yrs old, so adding the gun deaths to anyone over 10 yrs old is just padding the stats.

    Now back to pools, If I knew a house I was sending my 5 yr old over had A: a pool and B: was a gun owner, I would be MUCH more worried about the pool! As I feel most logical adults would be (keyword is LOGICAL). Most gun owners are responsible people who secure their weapons on a normal basis, but who would likely double and triple check their weapons if there was a birthday party or sleepover occurring. Along the same line, a lot of people are careful with their pool, but most don’t have gates and it is very easy for kids to open a door or swing open a gate and play near the pool.

    Try running the numbers with accidental drowning for people 10 and under and gun deaths for the same age range. Without the numbers in front of me, I would guess pools are more dangerous.

    Jeff S.

    P.S. and by “pools” I mean bodies of water meant for and regularly used for swimming. And yes, people have lakes and ponds and oceans in their backyards!

  12. As the post explains (and the stats are there)–yes, for children under a certain age, regarding accidental deaths, swimming pools are more dangerous–or rather, cause more annual deaths. Claiming that pools are more dangerous because children under a certain age are more likely to die by drowning in a pool than to be shot is a rather specious argument, though.

  13. Isn’t adding 15-24 yr olds into a “water safety vs gun safety” comparison a little specious as well? although it does help with the other part of your argument… that deaths by firearms for that age range far outnumber those of accidental drownings.

  14. If what is being put out into the world is that pools are more dangerous than guns, then pools need to be shown to be dangerous across all demographic groups, or it’s pointless. If pro-gun people were saying that more children die from swimming pools than guns, that would be fine. But by claiming that pools are more dangerous than guns, the implication is that, overall, pools kill more people than guns–which is a ridiculous falsehood.

  15. I don’t own guns, but i do fully believe in responsible people being allowed to own them. I also believe the NRA and other pro-gun people are fighting every law proposed to ban certain types of weapons because they HAVE TO, otherwise federal and state govt’s will try to ban ALL gun ownership and we’ll be left with only criminals having the guns.

    Look at the anti-smoking people…. Lets lie and say that 55,000 people die per yr from secondhand smoke. This ridiculous falsehood led too…..
    – lets ban smoking from restaurants … OK
    – lets ban smoking from bars… OK
    – lets ban smoking from NEAR restaurants and bars… OK
    – lets ban smoking from the beach… OK
    – lets ban smoking from parks and near schools… OK
    – lets ban smoking from apartments and condos and duplexes… OK
    – lets ban smoking from AN ENTIRE CITY… OK

    Do-gooders will not stop with whatever their cause celeb is until they completely eliminate it… of course pro-gun people have to fight !

  16. Sorry, the NRA folks & Freakonomics won this very specific argument. Pools are PROPORTIONALLY more dangerous to kids in the home than guns — specifically in relation to ACCIDENTS. That’s all. Guns are easier to make safe with a lock. Pools are notoriously hard and expensive to make safe. This comparison doesn’t mean pools are more dangerous in a wider context, however. Hard to murder with a pool or commit suicide with one. Drive-bys are especially hard to cimmit with a pool.

  17. Yes, they won that very specific argument. The problem is that the people most often “citing” that argument are saying only that guns are safer than pools, and or that more people die in pools than by guns. They like the sound of the basic idea…haven’t bothered to look into what was actually discussed.

  18. Suicides account for 2/3 of gun deaths. You are using incredibly misleading numbers to prove your point.

  19. Hey…what’s one thing that swimming pools and suicide by guns have in common? Dying by something that’s in your own home/on your own property. One’s accidental, and the other less so. But that’s already been covered, and is covered in a lot of my other pieces. So, it’s not misleading at all. What’s misleading is people saying that swimming pools are more dangerous than guns without providing the proper context that that really only applies to accidental deaths of children.

  20. People use the analogy of pools in regard to ACCIDENTAL DEATHS. People who use this argument are arguing against the thesis that guns should be banned because so many people are accidentally shot per year. So when you put it in perspective of how many people are accidentally shot vs. accidentally drowned, then pools cause way more accidental deaths no matter what age group you look at. Guns if intentionally used either in a homicide or suicide out number accidental drownings, but that is going way beyond the scope of the analogy to address the issues of ACCIDENTAL DEATHS, not intentional ones. On average for every 200,000 guns one person will be killed on ACCIDENT by a gun. For every 200,000 swimming pools about 16 people will drown by accident. So in terms of accidental deaths, pools kill 16 times more people per year. How many accidental deaths should be acceptable before banning something? Now, if you want to compare TOTAL deaths accident or not, that is an entirely different argument which this article does not address. This article is comparing apples to oranges (accidental deaths to intentional deaths).

  21. And, yet again, if the pro-gun people using the swimming pool argument were actually clear about the numbers and their context, that would be one thing. Since they just use blanket statements, it’s a different thing. Also, I did address the accidental versus intentional deaths situation with guns and pools–although I might point out I’m not sure where your statistics are coming from regarding all age groups. There’s also the matter of the difference between the number of households having guns, and the total number of guns out there–a difference that is rather rare with swimming pools (i.e., there are several households with multiple guns; not many with multiple swimming pools). The other thing is that there aren’t a whole lot of people talking about banning guns only because of the accidental deaths involved with firearms.

  22. This article is a lie. It conflates murder, suicide, and accidents. Drownings are pretty much always accidental, and should be compared to accidental gun deaths.

    For every accidental gun death of a child under 15 years of age, there are 13 drownings. See tables 10 and 11 at the link. Not that facts will ever keep you people from propaganda.

    Not only that, but the number of accidental juvenile gun deaths has declined 64% since 1996, and the rate has declined by 70%. Not that facts will ever keep you people from propaganda. See tables 16 and 17 at the link.

    I don’t think the gun control lobby cares one bit about children’s deaths. If you did, you’d be focusing on the far greater danger of drownings. Oh, but that would be factual, and you’d never want to let facts get in the way of grinding your political ax, would you?

  23. I would also note that there are 41.1 million households with guns, compared with 13.5 million residential and commercial swimming pools and hot tubs. So: 3 times as many gun owning households than those with pools and hot tubs, or access to them, but the gun accident rate is 1/13th that for drowning — and the rate of juvenile gun accidents has declined 70%.

    Not only that, but since 1998 there have been 257 million gun background checks. They don’t necessarily correlate 1:1 with gun purchases, but you’d have to be truly telling whoppers to argue that there aren’t a lot more guns in private hands now than there were 20 years ago.

    I might also note that the total number of accidental gun deaths across all age groups is down 52% since 1996, and the rate is down 57%. But those would be facts, and you have a story to tell.

  24. Nothing in the stats you cited contradicts anything I said in the article. I got the stats from the CDC as well. There are measures that can be taken to reduce deaths by drownings in swimming pools, which most pool owners simply don’t take. The NRA has actively lobbied against using safety measures to prevent accidental gun deaths, and even against doctors discussing such things with their patients. Kudos to responsible gun owners who make sure guns are kept away from their children. Which leads to another point…guns aren’t generally left where children have access to them year-round, while pools are just sitting there all the time. Pool owners should be aware of the risks of owning pools, just like gun owners should be aware of the risks of owning a gun (or guns), and take the proper steps for safety. The big lie is that swimming pools are “more dangerous” than guns. Again, accidental deaths for children are higher than with guns. But, if you think that swimming pools are more dangerous than guns, maybe have a contest with one of your friends. He gets a swimming pool, and you get a gun, and see who’s the last man standing. And the “gun control lobby” is aimed at preventing deaths from firearms (suicide, accidental, homicide, children, adult) not focused on the larger goal of “child safety.” And, if you want to play that game, then why isn’t the NRA helping to make guns and swimming pools (and all other causes of death) less likely? But you want to grind your political axe, don’t you?

  25. Again, if your asking “are there more accidental deaths from guns than swimming pools” you get a particular answer. If you’re asking “are swimming pools more dangerous than guns?”, it’s a very different argument to make. Your story is that you want to count only accidents in “danger”. How many homicides and suicides are committed with swimming pools? Or are homicides and suicides not part of “danger”?

  26. See the article. No, this is not even a pro-gun article. This shows the point pretty clearly. As they state ” In 1997 alone (the last year for which data are available), 742 children under the age of 10 drowned in the United States last year alone. Approximately 550 of those drownings — about 75 percent of the total — occurred in residential swimming pools. According to the most recent statistics, there are about six million residential pools, meaning that one young child drowns annually for every 11,000 pools. About 175 children under the age of 10 died in 1998 as a result of guns. About two-thirds of those deaths were homicides. There are an estimated 200 million guns in the United States. Doing the math, there is roughly one child killed by guns for every one million guns. “

  27. Aside from the fact that the stats in the article are 20 years old, and the article itself is 16 years old, the article is comparing total number of guns to total number of swimming pools (as opposed to total number of households with guns/total number of households with swimming pools), and all deaths from guns (not just accidents), so the comparison is off (but, I’ll point out, even if things were a bit more correctly compared, would still largely favor guns as “less dangerous” than swimming pools). As the article you cited notes, there are a number of safety elements pool owners can use that they often do not. But, also, coming back around to exposure levels…how much access do the children have to the swimming pools compared to the guns? What can a person do with a swimming pool, compared to what a person can do with a gun? How many people die as a result of guns in the home compared to those who die because of swimming pools in the home?

  28. Guns would appreciate it if you stop blaming them for murder and other death related issues. After all that’s why it was made by man to kill. You pull the trigger not the gun.

  29. Hmmm…interesting perspective. The guns are sentient enough to have wishes/appreciation, and made to kill, and yet…?

  30. ALL of this pales in comparison to the annual number of accidental deaths due to preventable medical errors, which depending on the source runs from 200K to 400K. And ALL the numbers are meaningless because we decide the manner of death matters more and because of that we are willing to accept any number of accidental deaths when that thing is more socially acceptable. Any outrage is as phony as it is selective.

  31. The argument being made is about protecting children… and it is extremely valid when you consider that both sides agree on who are the most vulnerable: small, elementary school aged children and younger.

    This argument of “let’s add all age ranges” is just trying to water down the argument that even this article admits is demonstrably true: More children aged 14 and younger die by accidental drownings than by guns.

    This should be a wake up call to parents that have unlocked pools/pool gates, nearby bodies of water, or heck, leave their kids alone for bath time. Parents should treat their pools like a responsible parent should treat their guns, by keeping them inaccessible to children not ready for them without proper supervision.

    Trying so hard to change the variables so that guns look worse is just stretching the truth and playing with statistics until you get an answer you want… If a 20 year old robs a bank and gets shot by the police, it’s absolutely not equivalent to a parent finding their 4 year old unconscious in a swimming pool.

  32. Funny you complain about me trying to water down an argument, when you try to punch up the argument that people over 14 are getting shot because they “deserve” it, by suggesting 20-year-olds are out robbing banks, and that’s why the stats for gun deaths are so high. Yes, parents should be responsible with pools, bathtubs, water in general, just like they should be with guns. And, yet again, yes, there is a specific argument about children being more at risk from death by drowning than death by guns. That does NOT equate to guns being less dangerous than pools, except for a specific age group. If all the pro-gun folks out there were capable of sticking with the actual argument, instead of pretending pools are more dangerous than guns as a general rule, that would sure be swell. Also, maybe look into injuries by guns versus injuries swimming, the cost of treating the injuries, etc. if you really want to have a legitimate argument. Don’t cherry-pick the places where you can make guns seem innocuous in relation to other hazards.

  33. You’re cherry picking the statistics in the same way people that claim the opposite. You’re using specific data to fit your narrative, while complaining about people using specific data to fit their narrative.

    Nevertheless, any time someone dies, whether it be from drowning or gunfire, it is a sad and unnecessary loss of life… but you can’t deny that there has been a sad exploitation of children that die to gun violence for political purposes. When was the last time you saw someone protesting that you need parenting classes or stricter licenses to own a pool? When was the last time you heard a Senator or Congressman push for stricter pool laws to save the children? If 400 children dying to accidental gunfire every year is worth political action and fervor… why don’t you see the same passion and conviction for the 600 children dying from a pool (something designed for purely recreational purposes)?

    Gun violence is absolutely a problem in this country… but you’re trying to knock down a perfectly valid argument (one you admit to being true in your article for children under 14). You might not be trying to use the emotional heft of children dying to make a point, but that is exactly what the point of the “pools are more dangerous than guns” meme is trying to combat. By adding age ranges that most people would not consider small, innocent, children… you’re changing the confines of the argument… Now maybe I’m off base because you’ve seen more people use the argument as a general rule that “in all cases, swimming pools are more dangerous than guns”… which I would agree, is completely ridiculous, but (granted, our internet searches are probably vastly different)… I’ve only seen that particular message being used when confronted with ads about small children, such as:

  34. The ads you posted have nothing to do with this particular argument. They are comparing things that have been banned out of concern for the safety of children as compared to semi-automatic weapons. So, are you proposing that we ban pools first, or that if we ban (even some) guns, we should also ban pools? In the original argument, there is a point about how safety devices exist for children in homes with pools, but that most pool owners choose not to purchase or use them (possibly due to ignorance about the overall danger, or just a sense that they and their children are not at risk), while on the other hand, the gun lobby fights against even making safety devices for guns available, even to the point of trying to prevent health care professionals from being able to ask people about the presence of guns in the home. And the majority of gun deaths for adults are from suicide–people using weapons in their own homes in order to kill themselves.

    So, yeah, the specific argument about danger to children under 14 is correct. But recent data (2012 – 2014) shows that children, as defined in the ‘usual’ way of anybody age 17 and under, are more likely to be killed by guns than by drowning, to the tune of more than 1200 gun deaths per year. That’s not exactly “cherry picking” on the order of what the pro-gun folks are doing–although, granted, the pro-gun folks aren’t the ones responsible for the CDC’s use of age categories. At the same time, it’s the gun lobby trying to keep the CDC and other government bodies from doing any research into the costs of gun violence–including deaths and injuries.

    Politicians pushing for a change to gun laws, as opposed to pool laws, is essentially a moot point, since the pool lobby is not exerting the same kind of political pressure, against all common sense, and against the will of the American people, both gun-owning and not.

    And the “meme” about pools being more dangerous than guns is not trying to “combat” anything except common sense. It’s not some helpful campaign to point out the dangers of pools. Rather, it’s more silly propaganda peddling the idea that guns are for protection, and not frequent tools of murder, suicide, accidental death, and terrible injuries. It’s promoting the idea that guns are great for keeping your family safe, while pools are scary.

    And while you’re at it, how about addressing your rather ridiculous 20-year-old bank robbers point? That’s not even cherry-picking. It’s just pulling arguments out of your ass.

  35. I support the Second Amendment. I understand wanting to protect it. What I don’t understands is a generation of adults who would rather lie than compromise to protect our children.

    It’s morally repugnant.

  36. jcschildbach – thanks for the great article. Some writers in a TV show cited that pools were more dangerous than guns & I decided to do a search since I couldn’t believe anything so ridiculous was being cited.

    And more importantly, you held your own despite every single person trying to make you & your article out to be something it wasn’t.

    I am STILL against guns overall & it NEVER ceases to amaze me how blood thirsty Americans are compared to every OTHER country in the world that doesn’t feel the need to own a gun & they have violence too. Not as much of course, but still violence non the less.

    But, I’m also anti gov’t, so the ONLY reason I now think people should have guns, is b/c the corrupt gov’t & police have them & they abuse their power & we DO have to protect ourselves.

    And I DO think that pool owners should have a locked gate if they have children under a certain age. If a child dies & they don’t, that should be considered negligence homicide.

    I guess I just assumed that parents were smart enough to at LEAST teach their kids to swim.

  37. Pingback: Which is More Dangerous a gun or a swimming pool?

  38. Gun ACCIDENTS vs swimming pool ACCIDENTS ….swimming pool by a very wide margin is the greater killer. The way you are squeezing more death numbers from guns is because you are including deliberate suicides. Over 60% of ALL “gun deaths” in the USA are in fact suicide. Suicide has gone up 64% globally since the 90s. “Gun death” or “gun violence” are basically BS fabricated terms. They are vague and somewhat arbitrary. “Gun violence” is the combination of violent crime homicides and murders (both different actually) with accidents, police shootings and self defense shootings. Add all of those up and you get an average of 40 a day. That is ONLY 40 a day in a nation of 320 million! What do you do? How do you get that number up so as to scare Americans? ….ADD SUICIDE! Ad the average of 50+ a day who kill themselves with a firearm.

  39. What exactly is your point? Yes, there are more accidental deaths in swimming pools, especially by children, as is pointed out in the blog post I wrote. As I also pointed out, swimming pools are not a particularly effective means of homicide, but there are still a fair number of accidental gun deaths each year. And, yes, suicide makes up about 2/3 of all gun deaths in the U.S.–giving the lie to the notion that guns in the home make a home’s inhabitants safer, especially given that firearms are a very effective means of suicide, which are often used impulsively in suicides. And I would think that the families and friends of the “ONLY 40 a day” might think that’s kind of a big deal, as would all the other people who experienced the suicide of a loved one–by firearm or other means.

  40. Speaking as an RN (with 15+ years) working in inner city Emergency Departments and level I Trauma Centers. In my experience I have had the misfortune of seeing dozens of dead children and babies from swimming pools. I’m not naive enough to deny gun related injuries don’t happen, but in my experience, far less frequent. In my career I have only seen one young child in the 10 and under category injured by a gun. The patient was struck by a bullet in a drive-by shooting which I don’t think counts as an accident.

    The worst day of my 20+ years as an RN: coming in to an assignment where CPR had just ended on a small child who had drown only to get as my next patient… another small child who had drown and ultimately expired. As a parent of younger children, responsible owner of several guns and a pool, my pool still scares me exponentially more than having my guns around.

    So lay out and manipulate all the statistics you want either way, I’m speaking from my real world experience: pools cause more accidental deaths than firearms.

  41. Again, the stats are noted for deaths across age categories, and yes, more accidental deaths from drowning for children–and because of the use of the term “accidental”, potentially more across all categories. But you’re also speaking from your own, personal experience–which is far different from statistical evidence. Interesting you bring up injuries from guns related to injuries from swimming pools as plenty of people are injured in swimming pools as well as by people with guns and don’t die from those injuries–and the number of non-fatal swimming-related injuries is much higher than the number of non-fatal gun-inflicted injuries, most from swimming pools.

  42. As noted above, I am simply speaking from the position of my reality. So, with that, here is more of what I’ve experienced related to gun injuries: off the top of my head, I’d say around 85-90% of patients with gun shot injuries survive. Recently a patient came in with no less than 12 gun shot wounds survived, albeit after extensive surgery. Also, you’d be amazed to hear how many people come into the ER, via walk-ins or on an ambulance, that are directed to sit triage and wait like everyone else on busy days. Those injuries are from the elbow down or the knee down without vascular compromise.

    It would be a ridiculous claim to say that gun related incidents have a lower mortality than pool related incidents in general. Outside of traumatic spinal cord injuries, the only other pool related injuries we typically see include scrapped knees and sun burn. Rarely fatal. Now we’re getting off the point of “accidental deaths in young children”.

    In your defense, not all people that are shot even make it to the hospital. Several are declared dead on the scene without being transported. So yes, my data/evidence is skewed. Also, children found down in a pool are always transported. Their down time isn’t always known and EMS and ER staff never want to give up on a child.

    My experience, my opinion, my $0.02. I feel more comfortable leaving my kids at the home of a responsible gun owner than a pool owner.

  43. I appreciate your perspective. But from my own personal perspective, I only know one child who died by drowning in a swimming pool, two adults who drowned (one in a lake and one in a river), two children who died from gun accidents, and multiple teens and adults who died deliberately or accidentally from gunshots. There is also an interesting perspective to be explored about the extent of the accidents caused by swimming pools and guns, the costs per incident, seriousness of the incidents, recovery, etc. But, again, since numerous people citing the guns vs. pools argument are not specifying that it is accidental deaths of children, the problem is that the lie that swimming pools are more dangerous than guns is spread about quite a bit, without any actual context.

  44. If you have not already read the book, I would read it. I think you are missing the point. The Freakenomics guys are not NRA supports that wanted to come up with a stat that would make people think guns are great and pools are bad. The whole point of this was to illustrate how bad people are at making logical decisions. They also talk about car seats, flame proof PJs and other things that do not have data to support the cost and effort that goes into the programs. Bottom line is it is a fact that you CHILD under the age of 10 is far more likely to die an accidental death involving a pool over a gun. That is it – nothing more and nothing less. Your post actually supports exactly what the book is about. You are set on making a narrative that supports your position, not looking at the facts to appreciate the point. People do not focus on the biggest problem, the focus on the narrative that they can best relate to. If parents were logical they would react by being far more worried about the accidental harm from a gun than a pool, but that is NOT how we react. It is just food for thought. The book is filled with facts about how we act based on emotion and not logic – it is just being human.

    Food for thought – Two men were heading to the airport and both got stuck in a snow storm and both were two hours late to the airport. However, the first mans flight left on time and he missed it by a full hour. The second man’s flight was delayed and just as he was clearing the TSA screening, his plane left the gate and he missed it by 2 minutes. Which person would be more upset?

    Nearly everyone says the second man. However, they are identical and should both feel the same emotion, but that is not how most people think. The level of disappointment and frustration is related to how close we got to something, not the end result.

    Just something to think about. No one is suggesting we ban pools and issue children handguns.

  45. I fully understand the point of the source material. My complaint is not with the Freakonomics authors or their basic argument, but with the rampant abuse of what they were saying. Their original point, about the relative danger of having a gun in the home versus having a pool, statistically speaking, is pointed out in what I wrote. But (once again) the problem is with so many ‘gun rights’ folks misrepresenting the Freakonomics argument–taking it from ‘more children die accidentally in swimming pools than are killed accidentally by guns in the home’ to ‘swimming pools are more dangerous than guns’ (no context provided, and a blatant falsehood) or ‘swimming pools cause more deaths than guns’ (which is also a blatant falsehood). Sure, a swimming pool is viewed as a measure of success, something to be desired in the home, despite it’s danger. Guns, in the U.S. at least, are viewed by many as something to be desired in the home, despite their danger. But nobody is arguing that swimming pools increase the safety of one’s family members, although that ridiculous argument is routinely made about guns.

  46. Doesn’t really impact the stats on accidental deaths, and it still leaves us with around 11,000 deaths compared to the 3,000-ish deaths from drowning. And I already discussed the comparative stats by age group. And, when the pro-gun folks decided that the comparison between pools and guns was somehow valid, they were talking about deaths in the home by things families own. So, taking the deaths by suicide out of that stat would actually make the comparison even more pointless, given where most of those suicides occur/where those guns come from.

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