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Gun violence costs U.S. $229B annually, analysis says

By
Danielle Haynes
Members of the community mourn at an interfaith vigil in the wake of a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, on August 4. File Photo by Justin Hamel/UPI
Members of the community mourn at an interfaith vigil in the wake of a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, on August 4. File Photo by Justin Hamel/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 18 (UPI) -- Gun violence costs the United States $229 billion -- or 1.4 percent of the gross domestic product -- each year, an analysis by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., released Wednesday indicates.

Lost income and spending by victims, employer costs, healthcare treatment, and police and criminal justice responses contribute to the direct economic impacts of gun violence, the report said. Indirect impacts come from reduced quality of life due to pain and suffering.

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Gun violence killed 39,773 people in 2017, the highest number in 40 years.

"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. I believe that Congress must act to help stem the gun violence epidemic in our country," Maloney said during a hearing at which the data was presented.

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Maloney's report, on behalf of Joint Economic Committee Democrats, is based on information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. The 56-page document broke down the cost by state, including rates of gun violence and gun suicide.

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The data indicate that Americans are 25 times more likely to die from gun homicide than residents of other high-income countries, with about two out of every three gun deaths attributed to suicide.

California experiences the highest absolute cost of gun violence at $18 billion, with one Californian dying every three hours. The majority of the directly measurable cost -- $5.5 billion -- is from lost income, followed by $625 billion in criminal justice costs.

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Louisiana has the highest per-capita cost of gun violence at $1,173 per resident. Overall, it loses $5.4 billion on gun violence. The lowest per-capita cost is in Hawaii at $179 per resident and $248 million annually.

The report found that Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and West Virginia have the highest costs of gun violence when measured as a share of their economies, while California, Florida and Texas have the highest absolute costs.

The report recommended further research on the issue, saying that the lack of funding for gun violence research by the CDC makes it "difficult to measure the economic costs of gun violence."

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"The gun violence epidemic is a national one. However, the situation is vastly different in different states. There are some likely determinants of the prevalence of gun violence, for example, the easy accessibility of firearms in some states," the report says.

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"However, the lack of in-depth, long-term research -- caused by the 1996 ban by Congress on federal funding for research on gun violence at the Centers for Disease Control -- means that it is difficult to draw absolute conclusions about how to most effectively reduce the human and economic costs of gun violence."

Gun control activists who attended Wednesday's hearing called for stricter gun laws to reduce violence and deaths in the United States.

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"We should all be free to live without the fear of being shot. No one law can stop all gun violence, but there's so much more we must do to keep our families safe," said Tina Meins, a member of the Everytown Survivor Network, whose father was killed in the 2015 San Bernardino, Calif., mass shooting.

Last week, Democratic leaders in Congress urged President Donald Trump and Republican leaders in the Senate to act on gun reform laws, including a ban on assault weapons and stricter background checks in the wake of shootings in Texas and Ohio.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said the White House is working on legislation aimed at curbing gun violence.

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"These horrendous shootings, in my opinion, deserve a response. I hope we can get something that can actually become the law of the United States of America," he said.

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