Bicycles & Guns
The CDC's Public Safety
Double Standard

Essay by
Scott Farrell


December 2000

Educating for safety

It's all about the children — a familiar claim from the Centers for Disease Control in regards to issues of product safety as "public health". Gun owners have felt the brunt of the CDC's product safety zeal every time some new study is released showing the number of children injured by handguns every year.

The CDC's answer to this problem? Lock 'em up! (The guns that is. Not the kids — at least not yet.) Mandatory gun locks, they say, will keep children from injuring themselves with firearms. All we need are more trigger blocks, cable locks and gun safes and the number of kids being injured with guns will decline.

Interestingly, the National Rifle Association has another proposal: Teach kids about gun safety rather than disabling the guns. And the NRA's "Eddie Eagle" program aims to do just that — create a safer environment for children through education rather than blind reliance on mechanical safety devices.

Why against safety education?

But the Centers for Disease Control, and many other pro-gun control organizations, claim that the Eddie Eagle program is just "gun indoctrination in disguise". They routinely deride Eddie Eagle, calling him the "Joe Camel of the gun industry", and have gone to great lengths to get the NRA's program banned from public schools across the nation without even considering any potential benefits of education as a means of preventing injury and accident.

Because, they claim, it's all about the kids. We shouldn't take any chances when it comes to the safety of the children. That's what they claim. So, if gun control advocates are sincere, you'd think their philosophy would hold true with any issue which combines product safety, public health and injuries to children.

But things were very different in a recent report from the CDC about the rising rate of bicycle injuries among children in this country.

Educating bicycle riders

According to a report in the New York Times, bicycle injuries among kids are on the rise, and this has analysts baffled, because for the past few years public safety advocates have been championing the use of bike helmets and other safety gear, and have even gotten mandatory helmet laws passed in 19 states. Yet, the rate of head injuries among bicyclists is up 51 percent in the last 10 years.

Shocking! So, what do the Centers for Disease Control intend to do about this? Register bikes? Prosecute parents for their children's irresponsible bicycle use? Mandate installation of locking devices on all bikes in storage? No. Strangely enough, the CDC's opinion is that, if safety devices aren't working to prevent bicycle injuries, then an increased effort needs to be made to educate bicycle owners on the safe and proper use of their equipment.

NRA Eddie Eagle student stickerQuite a contrast. Each case involves sporting equipment which is capable of inflicting injury and death if misused, yet can provide hours of safe and wholesome enjoyment if used properly. Each case involves a mechanical safety device — helmets in one, trigger locks in another — which don't seem to be doing quite as good a job of reducing risks as their manufacturers claim. Yet in one case the CDC advocates more education, in the other, less. One becomes an issue of teaching safe and responsible usage, the other, a case of "indoctrination in disguise".

Injuries: bicycles, firearms

Perhaps most baffling of all are the CDC's statistics themselves. According to them, nearly 74,000 injuries were caused by bicycles last year, yet, by the CDC's own estimates, firearms of all types (not just handguns) can only be blamed for about 3,900 accidental injuries in the same time period. Strangely, in examining the bike helmet phenomena, the CDC seems to have forgotten all about its claims regarding the effectiveness of trigger locks. On that issue, they said that gun owners' ideas about needing instant access to a gun for personal protection were highly overrated, and that just slapping a lock on every gun in America would create a safer environment for everyone.

Yet, on the matter of bicycle safety, the CDC concedes that nearly everyone riding a bike today already wears a helmet — and that, they claim, may be part of the problem. The CDC says that wearing a helmet can create a false sense of security, and can lead riders to do dangerous things they wouldn't otherwise do.

The double standard

Sound familiar? It should — it's almost word-for-word the same objection gun owners raised about the passage of mandatory trigger lock laws. Gun owners said that a trigger lock creates a false sense of security, and that no mechanical device can take the place of education and proper gun handling techniques.

Ironically, no one at the Centers for Disease Control, or Handgun Control Inc., or any other gun control advocacy group seems to have picked up on the double standard at work here. These wildly conflicting approaches to "public safety" lead anyone who's ever had a child, or who's ever owned a gun, to wonder what the real agenda is behind the opposition of proper gun education. What's good for the bike should be good for the gun as well.


© 2000 Scott Farrell

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