Megan McArdle wrote recently about the power of bias, as applied to people’s opinions of George Zimmerman. I recommended reading it for insight into how our thinking can be affected by bias. But, given the still swirling gun control debates, I was also struck by this passage.
Parents find it easy to imagine their child being kidnapped by a stranger, which is why many children under the age of 12 or 13 are now escorted everywhere by a parent or another trusted adult. But stranger abductions are incredibly rare and always have been, even in the days when first-graders regularly walked themselves to school. Parents find it easy to imagine their children dying in a gun accident, which is why you hear about parents who won’t have guns in the house, and refuse to let their kids play at the homes of parents who do. But those sorts of accidental shootings involving young children are about as rare as stranger abductions. On the other hand, very few parents would say “I won’t let you play at their house — they have a swimming pool,” even though drowning is one of the most common ways for young children to die. Economist Steven Levitt estimates that swimming pools are about 100 times more dangerous than a gun in the home.