Gun regulation is a topic of constant debate in America. Lawnmower regulation, in contrast, is not discussed much – although restrictions on lawns and lawnmowers continue to be passed in cities and towns around the country, apparently without much opposition.
Similarly, we hear a lot about gun violence, but rarely see lawnmower injuries reported on the news. Just because we don’t hear about something, though, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. How do these numbers really stack up?
About 74,000 Americans a year show up in emergency rooms with lawnmower-related injuries. Fascinatingly, the number of Americans non-fatally injured by guns is almost exactly the same: a reported 73,505 in 2013.
Guns are, however, far more deadly than lawnmowers. The 2013 figures report 33,636 deaths due to firearms. Only about 60 deaths a year are attributed to lawnmowers.
When looking at these kinds of numbers, it’s important to consider how much opportunity a person has to be killed by various things. That is, do guns kill more people than lawnmowers because guns are more common?
In 2009, there were an estimated 310 million guns in the United States, not counting those belonging to the military. The number of lawnmowers in the United States is estimated to be closer to 200 million.
So guns are more common, which could account for the higher rate of fatal injuries. However, lawnmowers are more widespread. Approximately two-thirds of Americans own at least one item of powered garden equipment, such as a lawnmower, leafblower, or edger. Only 30% of Americans own at least one gun.
Looking even more closely at the numbers, approximately 9% of Americans own at least five guns. So guns are concentrated in the ownership of a relatively few people, while lawnmowers are more evenly distributed. This likely means that the average person will encounter lawnmowers more often than they encounter guns – and guns are still responsible for far more deaths in America.
Does this mean that lawnmowers are off the hook? The answer depends on what level of risk you’re willing to accept in order to have a conventional lawn. But as we compare risks, it’s worth remembering that the average American is much more likely to be killed by a lawnmower than by a terrorist.