As advocates and politicians debate gun control issues, economists say gun injuries and deaths have cost billions in court proceedings, insurance costs and hospitalizations.
(Photo: J.D. Cavrich, AP)
Medicaid and Medicare end up paying $1.4 billion a year for gunshot wounds
Higher costs stem from lost taxes caused by lost time at work
Gunshot wounds also drive up insurance premiums
WASHINGTON — Gunshot wounds and deaths cost Americans at least $12 billion a year in court proceedings, insurance costs and hospitalizations paid for by government health programs, according to a recent study.
"I think people probably don't understand that as well as they ought to," said Ted Miller, author of a study that found that gunfire deaths and injuries incur a direct societal cost of $32 per gun.
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About 20 years ago, Miller calculated the costs to society of shooting injuries and deaths with funding from the National Institute of Justice. He decided to run the numbers again this year after the shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
"I was surprised," Miller said. "Back in 1994, the costs of drunk driving were substantially higher, but it has reversed."
Miller found that total costs per injury had at least doubled or come close for medical care, psychiatric care, court cases, insurance and emergency transport. For example, in 1992, medical care for a fatal shooting averaged $14,500. In 2010, that number reached $28,700.
He found that medical care in 2010 cost $3.2 billion for 105,177 deaths and injuries. In 1992, medical care cost $3 billion for 171,800 deaths and injuries, including 31,674 BB gun shootings, which were not included in the 2010 numbers.