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Dangerous to Young Children? Five Gallon Buckets or Guns?

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Which are more dangerous for young children, five gallon buckets or guns?

Five gallon buckets result in a small number of fatal accidents for young children; about 27 a year.   The accidents are not tracked as rigorously as those with firearms are.  I found a study that tracked them for six years.  From a pediatrics study:

 Analysis of Consumer Product Safety Commission data revealed 160 bucket-related drownings for the years 1984 through 1989, representing a mortality rate of 0.367 per 100 000 persons (younger than 2 years old) per year in the United States.

I have not found numbers for bucket drownings for later years, but the total drownings have dropped slightly from 1990 to 2005-2009.   In 1990 there were 3,979 total drownings.   In 2005-2009 the average was 3,533.   In 2011 there were 3,556.   From 1990, the total number has dropped about 11 percent.

Drownings of children under five were fairly consistent from 1999 to 2010, so it seems reasonable to believe that drowning in buckets have dropped about as much as the general figures.   That would put five gallon bucket drownings at .89 x 27, or 24 per year.    The number is small enough that no one seems to track exactly how many child drownings occur with five gallon buckets.   It is a rare event, but it happens.

Unintentional Drownings of boys and girls 1-4, compared to motor vehicle traffic.
Bucket drownings are a small fraction of these numbers.

The number of children under the age of five that die in gun accidents is tracked more rigorously.   This is in part because gun accidents are tracked as a separate number, and part because bucket drownings are counted as part of total drownings.    The latest number of fatal firearms accidents per year for children under the age of five was 19, recorded in 2007.    Again, this is a very rare event.   So while both firearms and five gallon buckets are involved in fatal accidents for young children, and the numbers are tiny, five gallon buckets seem to be more likely to be involved in a fatal accident.

To be fair, both numbers are so small as to be statistically insignificant.  In a country of over 300 million people, these fall into the “noise” category.    That does not help if it is your child that is injured or dies.   In nearly all of these cases, it is adults who made the bad decisions.   The vast majority of the children drowned in buckets were left unattended; the vast majority of the young children killed in firearms accidents were shot by an adult firing the gun.

In comparison, for 2007,  all fatal firearm accidents for children 0-14 totaled 65, and all drownings for children 0-14 totaled 739.    Fatal firearm accidents for children 1-14 have been fairly flat since 2001, averaging 61 per year.

Drownings account for over 11 times as many accidental deaths as firearms do for children 14 and under.

Swimming pools, considered by themselves, are  six times as likely as firearms to be involved in a fatal accident  for children under the age of 15.   There are 30 times as many guns in the United States as there are swimming pools.

Update:  I found numbers from John Lott showing the number of children under 10 who shot themselves or another accidentally from 1995 to 1999 varied from 5 to 9 per year.  From an archived article:

Data I have collected show that accidental shooters over-overwhelmingly are adults with long histories of arrests for violent crimes, alcoholism, suspended or revoked drivers licenses, and involvement in car crashes. Meanwhile, the annual number of accidental gun deaths involving children under ten — most of these being cases where someone older shoots the child — is consistently a single digit number. It is a kind of media archetype story, to report on “naturally curious” children shooting themselves or other children — though from 1995 to 1999 the entire United States saw only between five and nine cases a year where a child under ten either accidentally shot themselves or another child.

©2014 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.    Link to Gun Watch

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