Gun “Discontrol” Costs More Than We Think

Gun violence in the United States results in thousands of deaths and injuries annually. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2013, firearms were used in 84,258 nonfatal injuries (26.65 per 100,000 U.S. citizens) and 11,208 deaths by homicide (3.5 per 100,000), 21,175 by suicide with a firearm (2/3 of gun deaths are by suicide and are disproportionately white men. Murders by firearm are disproportionately young black men), 505 deaths due to accidental discharge of a firearm, and 281 deaths due to firearms-use with “undetermined intent” for a total of 33,169 deaths related to firearms (excluding firearm deaths due to legal intervention). 1.3% of all deaths in the country were related to firearms. There are 1200 incidents of gun violence per year in Philadelphia.

In 2010, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 67% of all homicides in the U.S. were conducted using a firearm. According to the FBI, in 2012, there were 8,855 total firearm-related homicides in the US, with 6,371 of those attributed to handguns. 61% of all gun-related deaths in the U.S. are suicides. In 2010, there were 19,392 firearm-related suicides, and 11,078 firearm-related homicides in the U.S. In 2010, 358 murders were reported involving a rifle while 6,009 were reported involving a handgun; another 1,939 were reported with an unspecified type of firearm.

In 2010, gun violence cost U.S. taxpayers approximately $516 million in direct hospital costs.

Gun violence is most common in poor urban areas and frequently associated with gang violence, often involving male juveniles or young adult males. Although mass shootings have been covered extensively in the media, mass shootings account for a small fraction of gun-related deaths and the frequency of these events steadily declined between 1994 and 2007, rising between 2007 and 2013, before continuing a downward decline. Legislation at the federal, state, and local levels has attempted to address gun violence through a variety of methods, including restricting firearms purchases by youths and other “at-risk” populations, setting waiting periods for firearm purchases, establishing gun buyback programs, law enforcement and policing strategies, stiff sentencing of gun law violators, education programs for parents and children, and community-outreach programs. Despite widespread concern about the impacts of gun violence on public health, Congress has banned the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) from conducting research on gun violence.

The Congressional Research Service in 2009 estimated there were 310 million firearms in the U.S., not including weapons owned by the military. Of these, 114 million were handguns, 110 million were rifles, and 86 million were shotguns. In that same year, the Census bureau stated the population of people in the U.S. at 306 million. While the number of guns in civilian hands has been on the increase, the percentage of Americans and American households who claim to own guns has been in long-term decline. Thus, the Pew Research Center has extrapolated from this that “The percentage of American households with a gun has been steadily declining from a high of 54% in 1977 to 33% in 2009” and the “The average number of guns per owner has increased from 4.1 in 1994 to 6.9 in 2004.”

Results of Gallup Poll on Gun Control, October 2015:
Keep as is: 33%
More strict: 55%
Source: http://www.gallup.com/poll/1645/guns.aspx

The real cost of gun violence for everyday Americans: anxiety, which is an unfocused corrosive uneasiness, unlike fear, which is an emotion directed at a specific threat. In the age of small terror, this anxiety induces a sense that the basic systems of authority are not working, that those in charge are not keeping people safe. People are more likely to have a background sense that life is nastier and more precarious — red in tooth and claw. They pull in the tribal walls and distrust the outsider. And this anxiety then makes everybody a little less humane.

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