There have been many comparisons made between guns and cars in the continuing argument over the pros and cons of attempts to reduce the number of accidental gun injuries (over 100,000 a year) and accidental gun deaths (over 30,000 a year). They both kill about the same number of people each year, but they don’t look anything alike and I have never seen a hand-held car.
People like to point out how all cars must be registered, all car owners must be licensed and have liability insurance, and how car makers must conform to manufacturing safety standards and be liable for defective or unsafe products (gun manufacturers are exempt from civil liability so they don’t have to make safe products).
So forget the car analogy. Let’s compare guns to something that looks a lot more like a gun and can be hand-held. I think a hand-held hair dryer would be an excellent comparator. Hand-held hair dryers look a lot like guns and are, like a gun, hand-held. Hand-held hair dryers are also very dangerous, though nowhere as dangerous as guns. As a matter of fact, hand-held hair dryers are currently killing an average of less than one person a year.
But in the mid 1900’s there were hundreds of electrocution deaths by hair dryer and something had to be done to reduce these numbers. This effort began when the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) set the first standards for hand-held hair dryers in the 1970’s. The number of deaths per year dropped drastically afterward. From 1980 to 1986 there were only 16 deaths per year by hair dryer.
In 1987 the CPSC added another safety standard for the manufacturers of hair dryer and the average number of deaths dropped even lower, from 16 per year down to 10 per year during the period 1987 to 1990.
Then in 1991 the CPSC mandated that hand-held hair dryer manufacturers include ground fault circuit interrupters in their products and from 1991 to 1997 the average death-by-hair dryer was only 2 per year. The rate dropped even further during 1998 to 2004, when the average was only 0.3 deaths per year.
Even with such a low death rate, hand-held hair dryers were placed on the federal “Substantial Product Hazard” list in 2010. This list identifies products with the potential to cause substantial injury or death should the product be defective. This makes it even easier to sue the pants off the manufacturer if you are electrocuted by a hair dryer.
In June of 2011, based upon the CPSC’s 4-year review of a study that covered 27-years (1980 to 2007), the CPSC announced it was once again increasing its mandatory minimum standards for hand-held hair dryers. It is too soon to know if the average number of deaths by hair dryer has dipped even lower than 0.2 per year.
By the way, the CPSC also estimates that it saves 270 lives a year by regulating the flammability standards for mattresses.
Forget about treating guns like cars. Let’s treat them like hand-held hair dryers and mattresses! That should take a sizeable chunk out of the number of injuries and deaths by guns every year.