October 19, 2018 — Despite Washington state having the 10th lowest gun death rate in the United States, a new report by the Giffords Law Center finds that the epidemic still costs the state $1.3 billion a year. The Economic Cost of Gun Violence in Washington, details how in recent years Washington state has experienced an average of 134 gun-related homicides, 523 gun-related suicides, and hundreds of nonfatal shootings per year.
In fact, from 2014 to 2016, gun homicides increased by more than 15 percent across Washington. The analysis underscores the need for local lawmakers to keep working to pass stronger laws that can better protect communities and reduce the economic toll of the problem.
“Shootings that immediately impact victims and their families also create ripples of lost opportunity in the larger community,” said Mike McLively, Giffords Law Center’s urban gun violence initiative director. “Even one shooting spills over and adds costs for hospitals, workplaces, schools, and neighborhoods in Washington state. It is our hope that the numbers released today show lawmakers and community leaders exactly what’s at stake if we fall to prioritize this issue. Because every dollar spent toward dealing with crime scenes tied to the gun violence epidemic directly impacts families and business in Washington state.
The report released today from Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence notes that local businesses are severely impacted when gun violence occurs because it keeps customers and tourists away and often limits hours of operation. The hundreds of shootings in the state cost Washington $1.3 billion per year in directly measurable costs. That includes:
- Healthcare costs: $56 million
- Law enforcement and criminal justice expenses: $64 million
- Costs to employers: $8 million
- Lost income: $1.2 billion
Much of this tab is picked up by the public. Up to 85% of gunshot victims, for example, are either uninsured or on some form of publicly funded insurance. The communities affected by these shootings tend to be in underserved urban areas, with young men of color being particularly vulnerable. In 2016 alone, black and Hispanic men made up just 8 percent of the state’s population, but nearly 40 percent of gun homicide victims. In Washington, black men are nearly seven times as likely as white men to be the victim of a gun homicide.
Even more striking, when indirect costs that impact families and communities, such as pain and suffering, are factored in, the overall estimate the economic cost of gun violence rises to $3.8 billion per year.
Giffords continues to support research and programs to fight urban gun violence in order to help save lives and lessen the economic impact of gun violence. Last December, Giffords Law Center, in partnership with PICO National Network and the Community Justice Reform Coalition, released a landmark report, Investing in Intervention: The Critical Role of State-Level Support in Breaking the Cycle of Urban Gun Violence, which highlights innovative programs in three states, including New York, that dramatically reduce levels of gun violence in impacted communities.