Since money talks, maybe we should spend more time discussing how much gun violence is costing us as a society.
Following the shooting in Las Vegas that left 59 dead and hundreds wounded, CBS Moneywatch’s Aimee Picchi wrote that, “gun violence in the U.S. also has an enormous financial cost, rippling through the economy in the form of lost wages, medical bills, higher taxes for law enforcement and lower property values, among other factors. Some estimates put the total annual tab of shootings at well over $100 billion, while others put it even higher.”
“The economic devastation caused by gun violence tends to get overlooked because Americans may not think it impacts them, especially if they live in a safe neighborhood or away from cities beset with crime,” Picchi wrote. “Yet taxpayers are picking up the bill by paying for the medical care of victims on Medicaid and by forking out more in taxes to fund law enforcement, the criminal justice system, and jails and prisons.”
Mike McLively, senior staff attorney at Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence told Picchi, “The usual discussion is: There’s a mass shooting, we talk about political inaction, and then everyone turns to the next thing that’s happening or next disaster. The cost of gun violence goes undiscussed, and it’s super important because it’s silently affecting everyone.”
“Researchers conservatively estimate that gun violence costs the American economy at least $229 billion every year, including $8.6 billion in direct expenses such as for emergency and medical care,” according to the law center.
The center is taking a look at the state-by-state cost of gun violence.
For example, in a report last year on the cost to the state of Ohio, the center said when you add up the expenses that can be directly measured, including health-care costs, law enforcement and criminal justice expenses, employer costs, and lost income, the initial price tag of gun violence is $2.7 billion a year.
But when you include reduced quality of life from pain and suffering, the estimate for the economic cost of gun violence in Ohio rises to a $7.3 billion per year, the center estimates.
In a 2015 article, Mother Jones profiled a number of gun violence victims focusing on the financial fallout from being shot.
Read more: The True Cost of Gun Violence in America
Here are two victim stories.
Jennifer Longdon: $40,000 for wheelchair modifications to her home after a gunshot in a road rage incident left her paralyzed. Another $35,000 for a custom lift-equipped van.
Most of her medical bills were covered through a combination of Medicaid and Medicare. But still she had to file for bankruptcy.
“I don’t think people understand the way nickels and dimes add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars—millions of dollars—over the lifetime of an injury,” Longdon said.
Antonius Wiriadjaja: $169,000 for medical care, physical therapy and counseling. He had been walking in his Brooklyn neighborhood when a man stalking an ex-partner started shooting at her. A stray bullet pierced his chest and lodged in his stomach.
Most of that $169,000 was covered by his health insurance. But he still had $20,000 in deductibles and other out-of-pocket expenses that wiped out his savings.
In the Mother Jones article Wiriadjaja said, “I know I’m lucky, because I had savings, health insurance and an incredible support network. Many other gunshot survivors are not. I count my blessings every day.”
Here’s some research from the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center on the economic impacts of gun violence.
Researchers from Johns Hopkins analyzed data from a nationally representative sample of 704,916 patients in the United States who arrived at an emergency room alive for treatment of a firearm injury from 2006 to 2014.
Faiz Gani, a research fellow at the Johns Hopkins Surgery Center for Outcomes Research, said, “Until people are aware of the problem’s full extent, we can’t have the best informed discussions to guide policy.”
Color of Money question of the week
Can we afford the cost of gun violence? Send your comments to email@example.com and include your name, city and state. In the subject line put “Gun Violence.” Please keep your comments civil.
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Does your debt make you undateable?
In last week’s newsletter I wrote about new research from personal finance site finder.com that found people do put a price on how much debt is acceptable in a potential partner. So I asked: How much debt would make a person undateable to you?
Lexi from Walla Walla, Washington wrote, “I am 23 and working on my MBA. A person with any debt is undateable to me. I have worked very hard to make it through my undergraduate and MBA studies without a single student loan and I make double payments on my car loan each month. I grew up in a rocky financial household. My parents had separate finances and my father was horrible with money. Blame it on daddy issues, but debt is not attractive to me!”
“I am one of the people with debt,” wrote Mary from Oakland. “I previously had none, had a savings, had investments. Then I lost my job. In order to survive through a combination of temp work, unemployment, etc. I had to use my credit cards. My COBRA was over $1,000 a month, I had to have surgery twice, needed new glasses. Someone in my family died and I not only had to travel, which I did as cheaply as possible, but I am the one who had to pay for the cremation of my family member since there was no one else to do it. I’m finally employed again but my debt is about $20,000 and my savings is gone. So before people who have had the good fortune to have no job loss, family death, health problems get snotty about who is ‘undateable,’ maybe they should consider that not everyone who has debt is some nitwit. There is a whiff of the judgmental Puritan in all this.”
Scott Fossum of Houston wrote, “Any amount of debt is an acceptable amount for me to date someone. Debt represents past behavior, I’m more interested in current behavior. Is the debt going down or up, is there a plan to reduce debt? The potential of going past dating includes the answers to those questions. Most of my friends and acquaintances have debt (lots to moderate i.e. normal people; a few with zero) and dating to me is more about fun than serious discussions about debt. It is not difficult to determine one’s debt situation and philosophy by observing and listening.”
“Debt accumulated is not the problem,” wrote John from Winston Salem, N.C. “One’s commitment to getting rid of the debt is the only factor that should matter to a dating relationship. I had $15,400 spread out over four credit cards, an $1,800 personal loan, $1,500 in medical debt, and $30,057.99 in student loans. I stupidly amassed all of that in college and after I graduated I made the commitment to never borrow money again. I did this because my now spouse (girlfriend at the time) introduced me to Dave Ramsey and his principles of living debt free and it was a blessing not only to our relationship (she had zero debt) but also to our marriage. It made going through cancer (mine as well) all the easier.”
Color of Money columns this week
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Have a question about your finances? Michelle Singletary has a weekly live chat every Thursday at noon where she discusses financial dilemmas with readers. You can also write to Michelle directly by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read more Color of Money columns, go here.