April 22, 2017
by Elliot Fineman
CEO – Founder
Last week the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) released a report claiming the firearms and ammunition industry and helps the economy. It contributes $51.3 billion to the economy, generates $6.8 billion in tax revenues and excise taxes and employs over 141,000 people, says NSSF
What the report does not mention is that the total annual cost of gun violence in the U.S. is $229 billion, according to Mother Jones. That includes $8.6 billion in direct spending from medical expenses to court and prison costs, 87 percent of which– $7.5 billion– is paid for by taxpayers. That sum exceeds what NSSF claims it generates in tax revenues and represents only a portion of taxpayers’ costs.
The $7.5 billion significantly understates the taxpayer cost because taxpayers also pay a portion of the $221 billion of indirect gun violence costs such as lost earning power of victims and their family caregivers who can no longer work and required medical and skilled nursing care. In addition to the more than 10,000 who die from gun homicides each year in the U.S., 80,000 are shot but survive often with severe permanent disabilities.
For example, Mother Jones cites a teenager paralyzed from the neck down by gun shot who can no longer feed, toilet or dress himself or turn over in bed and will live the rest of his life in a nursing home, paid for by the taxpayers under Medicaid. Over two decades, the price tag for this one patient’s skilled nursing care is upwards of $1.7 million.
Mother Jones, further reports that a single gun homicide in America “is nearly $400,000. And we pay for 32 of them every single day.”
The NRA and gun owners will shout and rant that it is not fair for law-abiding gun owners to be paying for the cost of criminal violence. But that, as well as the claims of economic benefits from the gun industry, misses the point.
If I do not own a car, my tax dollars are not used to pay for the cost of car-driving deaths and accidents. Law-abiding drivers pay for them through their insurance. Additionally, their premiums have a built-in excess to cover costs generated by illegal drivers who do not have insurance.
The NRA and gun owners would further argue that taxpayer dollars are used to pay for highways and bridges that motor vehicles use. But, what they don’t mention is that these roads and bridges have “public utility” ––they allow food, consumer and commercial goods, construction materials etc. to be moved from region to region.
Guns, on the other hand, have no “public utility”; they are an individual, private hobby that taxpayers should not have to finance.
What makes the NRA’s and gun owners’ position even more outrageous is that they oppose and defeat any law that would make it harder for criminals to get guns; this causes far higher rates of gun violence—and consequently far higher taxpayer costs.
Additionally, making sure criminals have guns allows the NRA to turn around and say everyone must carry a gun—at all times— to protect themselves from armed criminals. In the 1996 NAACP suit against American Arms, the expert witness Lucy Allen reported that handgun sales to criminals represent minimally 22 percent of annual handgun industry sales. (See reference below). ATF veterans we have spoken with place the figure at 30 percent.
A fair solution to cover the cost of gun violence would be for the law-abiding gun owners to carry insurance as do the law-abiding car drivers. Further, there should be a tax on gun and bullet purchases just as there is for gasoline and tires. The gun owners want the pleasure of owning their guns but do not want the responsibility of covering the cost of gun violence. That is patently unfair to the law-abiding citizens who do not own guns and have no interest in gun-related activities.
CEO – Founder
National Gun Victims Action Council
*See Expert report of Lucy P. Allen at 7, NAACP v. Acu Sport, Inc., 271 F. Supp. 2d 435, 522 (E.D.N.Y. 2002) (confirmed as accurate by the court in 201-03 of its Findings of Facts).