Although gun violence places a greater financial burden on Americans than citizens living in any other developed nation, there is no exact figure of how much it costs, or who is paying. 

Following a shooting, mounting medical debt, loss of employment, and mental health treatment can all take a significant toll on people who have been shot. While simultaneously trying to manage a return to some version of normalcy, many of these victims often have to navigate crippling expenses. Yet there is little governmental or academic understanding of how these costs break down over time, and who they most grievously affect.

In our latest Ask the Trace, Fairriona McGee explores what data does exist, and gains insight from gun violence researchers into what gaps remain, such as unequal access to adequate healthcare. 

“There are some elements of gun violence that directly cost taxpayers, such as medical care and supporting people who are permanently injured, but that is a tiny fraction of the total cost,” said Phillip J. Cook, an economist and researcher in the field. “The much larger cost is the value of quality of life, and it does not show up in our taxes.” 

New Stories From The Trace

How Much Are Americans Paying for Gun Violence?

A shooting’s toll on survivors and people close to them can be overwhelming and long-lasting. Why isn’t there more research on how much it costs victims?

In Much of the Country, Cities Can’t Enact Their Own Gun Laws

Here’s what you need to know about NRA-backed preemption laws, which limit local regulation of firearms.

What to Know This Week

A controversial bill to relax restrictions on who could bring guns on public school campuses died on a tie vote in the Tennessee House on Wednesday, after almost being voted on without debate because of a parliamentary maneuver that provoked outrage. Several Covenant School parents temporarily left the Tennessee House committee room after Representative Chris Todd, who sponsored the bill, argued that guns in schools could make children safer, and suggested that the Covenant shooter probably would have “driven over” the kids at recess if a gun wasn’t available. [The Tennessean

The Biden administration is continuing to escalate its crackdown on lawbreaking gun dealers. The ATF has revoked the licenses of 122 dealers in the fiscal year that began in October, up from 90 the previous fiscal year. [The Wall Street Journal] Context: The Biden administration asked the ATF to implement a “zero tolerance” policy on lawbreaking gun dealers in June 2021.

Gun deaths among American kids reached a record high in 2021, according to a new analysis of CDC data, marking the second consecutive year in which firearm-related injuries were the leading cause of death among children and adolescents. [NBC

In 2019, New York Police Department officers shot and killed a man whom they alleged reached for a gun during a confrontation — and in the process, killed one of their own. The officers involved were cleared of wrongdoing, but new records show that investigators appeared to ignore video footage of the officers being commanded to “stop shooting,” and let police misstatements stand. [ProPublica

Homicides are dropping in many major U.S. cities, but in the nation’s capital, they’re surging toward numbers not seen in decades. D.C. employs the same crime-fighting strategies — like seizing illegal firearms and focusing efforts on areas with concentrated violence — as many of the cities where killings are decreasing. Why is the District an outlier? [The Washington Post

The group behind the “constitutional sheriff” movement — which espouses an ideology that elected sheriffs can refuse to enforce laws they find “unjust” — has been finding its way into the mainstream, by providing state-approved, taxpayer-funded training on its beliefs to law enforcement officers. [Howard Center for Investigative Journalism and the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting]

The race for Indianapolis mayor is shaping up to be one of the most interesting in the country: Democratic incumbent Joe Hogsett is up against Republican and former NRA ally Jefferson Shreve, whose public safety plan includes gun reforms like banning assault weapons, raising the age for firearm purchases, and ending permitless carry. Could Shreve’s policy turn presage a shift in the GOP’s relationship with the NRA? [Politico] Context: Shreve’s public safety plan essentially mirrors that of his opponent — and both would defy Indiana’s “preemption” law.

Gun violence is prevalent in Chicago’s West Englewood neighborhood, where LaToya Winton provides one-on-one counseling to public school students. Though gun violence prevention isn’t in her job title, Winton’s developed strategies to help young people cope with shootings and equip them to avoid community violence. [Chalkbeat Chicago

Nearly three in four gun owners say protection is a major reason they own a firearm, far surpassing other reasons like hunting, sports, and collecting. More than 80 percent say they feel safer owning a gun. [Pew Research Center

In Memoriam

Damien González, 18, was a rising leader in San Francisco’s Mission District. Even at his young age, Mission Local reported, Gonzáles was a well-known community organizer, who had been pressing this summer to bring more money to his neighborhood. He was shot and killed last week while he was playing a casual basketball game with friends. Gonzáles was close with his family: He watched out for them, his mother said, and always attended church with his grandmother. He was expecting his first child in October. “Damien was a great son, good friend,” his mother said. “He went above and beyond for everyone.”

We Recommend

As Research Grows Into How To Stop Gun Violence, One City Looks To Science For Help: Amid a heated special legislative session this week to address public safety in Tennessee, city officials in Knoxville are working with community organizations, church leaders, police, and gun violence prevention researchers to quell violence throughout their city. Knoxville is one of a growing number of cities teaming with researchers to develop an evidence-based plan in reaction to a dramatic rise in shooting deaths, and includes policing changes, among other efforts. However, it does not count on new gun restrictions. That was important, since Tennessee has repeatedly moved to loosen gun laws. “I wanted to have answers,” said Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon. “I wanted to be able to fix it.”

Pull Quote

“It is affecting everyone, everywhere, and only getting worse.”

— Dr. Emily Lieberman, a pediatrician with Lurie Children’s Hospital and a survivor of the Highland Park shooting last year, on rising gun deaths among children, to NBC