Gun Violence Costs the U.S. Economy Over $200 Billion Annually: Report

Sep 18, 2019
In The News

state-by-state analysis released on Wednesday by House Democrats on the Joint Economic Committee on Wednesday added some disturbing perspective to America’s gun violence epidemic, both in how the problem is unique to the United States and in the toll toll it’s taking on the economy.

Though the aim of the report was to quantify the economic impact of guns, it included revelations about two demographic groups that are disproportionately affected by gun violence: young people and people living in rural areas.

The report found that Americans aged 15-24 are 50 times more likely to die from a gun in the United States than they are in other economically advanced countries. Additionally, it found that, globally, 9 out of 10 people under the age of 25 who are killed with a gun are killed in the United States. The latter statistic was taken from a 2010 joint study conducted by the University of Nevada-Reno and the Harvard School of Public Health. Most of the information in the study released Wednesday is based on gun violence statistics from 2017.

Gun violence against young people is far more likely to occur in the South and Midwest. Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Missouri are among the states with the highest youth death rates. At the top of the list, however, is Alaska, which also has the highest suicide rate. The report notes that a staggering 60 percent of U.S. firearm-related deaths are self-inflicted.

The report noted the highest death rates are largely found in the rural states that boast the highest gun-ownership numbers. “They say that the only thing that will make America safer is more guns,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), the vice chairman of the committee that released the report, said in a hearing on Wednesday. “But the fact is that if more guns made us safer we already would be the safest country in the world.”

Rural states also suffer the most economically from the gun violence epidemic. In calculating the economic toll, the committee factored in lost income, employer costs, health care, and the cost expended by the police and the criminal justice system. Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and West Virginia were the states whose economies suffered the most relative to the size of their economies. In total, gun violence costs the United States $229 billion annually, or 1.4 percent of the GDP.

But the largest cost of the gun violence epidemic is of course the lives it has taken. In 2017, close to 40,000 people were killed with a firearm in the United States. “As we talk about the costs of gun violence, let us never forget that the biggest, most tragic cost it the loss of human life,” Maloney added on Wednesday. “I believe that Congress must act to help stem the gun violence epidemic in our country.”

Congress is unlikely to get the message. Though the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives passed a sweeping gun control bill earlier this year, the Republican-controlled Senate, led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — or, as Rolling Stone dubbed him in our latest issue, “The Man Who Sold America” — hasn’t taken it up for a vote, and has largely stonewalled any progress on legislation aimed at curbing gun violence. Following the recent mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, House Democrats passed additional gun control bills while applying more pressure to McConnell to take them up. He has refused to do so.

The report released Wednesday makes sure to note there is still very little understanding about the gun violence epidemic and that far more research still needs to be conducted. This is difficult though, the report also notes, as Congress has for decades blocked federal funding for gun violence research at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.