The High Cost of Gun Violence in Utah
Forbes estimated that gun violence, injury and death cost the average U.S. taxpayer $564 in 2010. [Forbes 1/14/13] While the gun lobby insists that more guns mean less crime, there is substantial credible research points to a different conclusion.
THE COST IN NUMBERS
The Wall Street Journal reported [AP via WSJ and KSL.com 1/23/13] a link between stricter gun laws in New York City and decreases in violent crime. "The NRA has dismissed Bloomberg's anti-gun campaign over the years as a publicity stunt, and said that tighter laws would have no effect on public safety and crime. But leading criminologists around the country say that Bloomberg is right for the most part."
This can be a complicated debate, with both sides pointing to an array of statistics. We believe the most credible sources show a real link. Analysis of 2010 data from the CDC shows that the five states with the highest level of gun violence, Alaska, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and Wyoming, also happen to be states with some of the most liberal gun laws in the country. Alternatively, states with the lowest levels of gun violence, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey have some of the strictest gun laws. It's important to note when reviewing statistics, the rates of violence. There is a plethora of misinformation on the internet from less than reputable sources which manipulate data to further their agenda. It is important to pay attention to rates (which are usually expressed per 100,000 people), rather than total numbers. This is a common (but not the only) trick used by gun advocates.
Statistics in Utah suggest gun violence is a serious public health problem. Data from the Utah State Medical Examiner compared with Census Bureau statistics show that in 2012 guns in Utah killed 11 of 100,000 people. The Centers for Disease Control last year reported a national average of 10.4. [SL Tribune 12/30/12] Given Utah's relative economic stability during a major U.S. recession, its lower population density (compared to coastal areas), and lower drug and alcohol problems, this number should be lower in comparison. However, our legislature has loosened guns laws consistently every year for almost a decade. We believe there is a relationship between the relatively high level of gun deaths here and our loose gun laws.
For the 2007-2011 span, the Utah Department of Health reported hospital charges for firearms injuries in Utah to be over $22 million for an average of $45,800 per patient. [SL Tribune 12/30/12] This number does not include the other numbers associated with premature death, including life insurance payouts, or other associated costs to families, whether they carried life insurance or not, like loss of income, funeral expenses, or ongoing private medical expenses.
THE TRAGIC HUMAN TOLL
The monetary costs of gun violence cannot be compared to the loss of human life. In the U.S. we have become hardened to this reality. To gain perspective, note the rate of gun death in the U.K. where guns are not allowed is 0.25 per 100,000 annually. In the U.S. in 2012 (as mentioned above) it is 10.4. That is 42 times higher.
The chart below is from the Centers for Disease Control, showing the 10 leading causes of violence-related injury deaths in Utah in 2009. Gun advocates insist that guns are just objects. We insist guns are tools of death. They enable quick and convenient results. And the results of a spontaneous decision are frequently permanent.
Whether the death is a deliberate act of violence perpetrated on another or on one's self, firearms are generally the means used most. Gun advocates also frequently dismiss firearms-assisted suicide as not being relevent. We beg to differ and think that Utah's high rates of suicide are cause for alarm, warranting extra caution when choosing whether to own a gun and also serious thought before deciding how to store one.
For more information about Utah's Gun Laws, click here.