According to a initial health costs of hospital care for people who are shot from a report released by the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee ahead of a Wednesday hearing on the economic impact of gun violence.
This week, two rare extensive studies regarding the costs of gun violence in the United States were published, further laying bare the immense scale of the tragedy facing Americans. While the foremost effect of gun crimes and self-harm is undoubtedly the unfamothable human suffering involved, the enormous costs of such violence to the taxpayers and the wider society are a good secondary indicator of how urgently this crisis needs to be addressed in a decisive manner. The two most recent studies largely concur with the limited previous studies that have previously seen the light of day.
Firearms-related deaths are the third leading overall cause of mortality in the U.S. in the twenty-first century. Despite this, federal funding for gun violence research is acutely lacking. According to The Guardian, twenty-five times less studies are conducted and one-hundred-and-fifty times less money spent on gun violence research each year than on sepsis, even though both causes kill roughly the same amount of people in the United States and gun violence injures many more. There have been long-standing calls for the CDC to study gun violence as the public health crisis that it is, but no such efforts have come to avail largely thanks to Congressional inaction. Even the National Violent Death Reporting System still covers only 20 states so far, according to Dr. David Hemenway of Harvard School of Public Health.
This week, some new research shed light on the true scale of socio-economic costs of gun violence in America. One long-term study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that those suffering from a non-fatal gun injury incurred four times more average healthcare costs in the year following the trauma. Dr. Zirui Song and fellow scientists found a 50 % increase in psychiatric disorders and an astonishing 85 % rise in illegal substance use in the patients examined. Dr. Song described the results as ‘disturbing’ and ‘quite striking’, calling for further research and urgent redress to the issue. Another large-scale study by the thinktank Everytown Research and Policy placed a staggering $557 billion tag on the overall cost of gun violence per annum. The scholars took three types of economic costs into account, with quality-of-life costs accounting for over $1.3 billion per day in the U.S., with the rest being explained by the ‘immediate’ and ‘subsequent’ costs of gun violence.
Unfortunately, these results are fairly consistent with the limited previous findings. For instance, one major House Joint Economic Committee report put the total direct costs of gun violence at $229 billion in 2019, accounting primarily for lost income, police and justice response, healthcare costs, among other minor factors. One rare CDC study in 2012 concluded that non-fatal gun injuries alone cost $5.6 billion in direct healthcare expenses and a total of $64.6 billion if the lost productivity is taken into consideration. Unsurprisingly, these costs are disproportionately concentrated in the poorest counties of the nation, which means practically all of this financial burden is borne by the taxpayers nationwide.