Though we don’t often think of it this way, there is a real cost of gun violence beyond the obvious.
In the wake of the inspiring March for Our Lives, which took place in cities across the country and around the world on Saturday, I thought it important to provide some context to the consequences of the gun violence epidemic in this country.
At least 26,000 children and teenagers younger than 18 were killed by gunfire in the United States since 1996. The United States average over 35,000 gun deaths per year, 13,000 of which are homicides. And Black men are 13 times more likely to die from gun violence that white men. These numbers are truly staggering and heartbreaking, and they have financial ramifications as well.
Can you give us an example?
Let me first say you simply cannot put a price on lives lost, and the consequences for victims’ family, friends and community. That said, we can look at the costs that the gun violence epidemic inflicts on our country. Johns Hopkins University released a study on the costs of gun violence late last year, which sought to quantify the financial burden of gun violence in the United States by looking at data from 150,930 gun-violence patients who visited emergency rooms between 2006 and 2014.
The CDC estimates almost a million people were injured or killed from firearms between guns from 2006 to 2014, the years the study took place, and for 2016 – the most recent year available – 38,658 were killed and over 80,000 were injured in 2016 from firearms.
The study found these deaths and injuries come with enormous direct costs, as gun shots are very expensive to treat. Over the nine years of the study, that amounted to a whopping $22 billion just in inpatient charges. Annually, the cost for victims of gun violence comes to about $2.8 billion in emergency-room and inpatient charges alone.
Are their broader societal estimates, beyond medical bills?
According to calculations done by Mother Jones magazine (using 2012 data) cited by the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, the annual cost of gun violence in America exceeds $229 billion. Direct costs account for $8.6 billion. The indirect costs of gun violence amount to at least $221 billion.
This is than $700 per American every year, more than the total economic cost of obesity and almost as much as the annual price tag for the entire Medicaid program, and half of these costs are borne by U.S. taxpayers. And these calculations cannot gauge other intangibles, like costs associated with mental health and trauma, stunted investment and development in communities affected by gun violence, or the expense of armed guards and security measures in schools.
These are staggering numbers.Where do we go from here?
That is a very good question. As a country, we have to decide if we are willing to make changes in an effort to save thousands of lives, and as a knock-on effect, billions of dollars. What we saw at more than 800 rallies over the weekend seem to indicate we are moving in that direction.
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