How Guns And Violence Cost Every American $564 In 2010
Each injury caused by a firearm sets in motion a prolonged series of events. There’s a car-ride to the emergency room…or the morgue. An officer investigates. A jury perhaps deliberates. A judge presides.
This chain adds up. To the sum of $564 per American. All told, firearm injuries cost the United States more than $174 billion in 2010, according to new data from the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation. Most of that expense came from deaths; fatalities accounted for $153.3 billion.
The data is not produced regularly by PIRE, explained Ted Miller, the institute’s primary researcher. Miller was prompted to create it after last months’ massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., and the debate over firearm legislation that has followed. His data took him as far as estimating 2010′s costs, and he’s not sure if the costs have risen or not since: He acknowledges that while mass shootings seem to have increased, it’s unclear if firearm violence overall has risen too.
care bills to what it would cost an employer to recruit a new
employee after losing one to a firearm.
Here’s how a fatality breaks down:
You can see that the lion’s share ($3.1 million) is quality-of-life costs. PIRE explains this is estimation of the pain, suffering and diminished livelihood of the injured people and their families. It does not account for anyone who may have merely witnessed the crime.
Now, a look at a fatality’s impact on the U.S. government:
Fatalities are far, far more expensive than an non-lethal injury. A firearm injury that included a trip to the hospital cost about $432,000 total and meant roughly $42,000 in government costs. By contrast, a murder would have racked up $5.1 million total and $582,000 in government expenses.
PIRE includes both homicides and suicides in its fatality estimates, a total of more than 30,000. In 2010, PIRE figures show there were 11,078 deaths caused by guns and 19,382 suicides. Suicides carried greater financial consequences.
All together, suicide expenses climbed past $93 million, while costs from homicides and assaults hit only $72 million.
America is unquestionably the most heavily armed nation in the world. Some projections show Americans own more than 300 million firearms. PIRE based its 2010 estimates on a slightly more conservative figure: 270 million. That means each gun represented $645 in costs for each American.
PIRE’s numbers are particularly striking when you consider how little is known about the figures behind America’s gun business. All told, it’s certainly a matter of billions of dollars. The National Shooting Sports Foundation estimates it’s a $32 billion industry. Yet, we don’t even know how many guns are sold. Wal-Mart is the nation’s largest seller of munitions—Cabela’s another big retailer, Dick’s Sporting Goods a third. But those companies don’t report how many firearms they sell, and the loopholes in the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check allow that data to serve only as a broad gauge of sentiment. Meanwhile, America’s publicly traded gun companies, Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger,are small fry compared to European firearm manufacturers.
Keep the industry’s opacity in mind when reviewing PIRE’s figures. Still, the numbers are too burdensome on the mind, and on the wallet, to ignore and deserve a place in the on-going debate over what, if any, regulations should come.