One Cost Benefit Analysis the Right Doesn’t Want to See: Gun Injury and Fatality Costs

Guns Costs

As of 2013, Nevada retained its position as a state with a higher than the national average ranking in the death by firearm category. [vpc] The number was 14.16 per 100,000.  The correlations are almost straight-forward, those states with lax gun laws and high rates of gun ownership have higher levels of per capita deaths caused by firearms.  However, this dismal ranking (15th) is not sufficiently lax to give comfort to the gun proliferation movement (read: NRA) and its allies in the Nevada Legislature. [LVRJ]

Perhaps it’s about time for an application of the popular “cost-benefit” analysis to Nevada’s gun laws?  For example, we have AB 148 which would allow a person to carry a firearm in airports (non-secure areas), schools, and day care centers.  And, IF there is money available a local sheriff may offer firearm safety classes pertaining to the use of guns in an “educational environment.”   There’s SB 175, which was initially drafted to prevent domestic abusers from retaining their firearms while protection orders were in place. The bill is now laden with reciprocity provisions, and an expansion of ‘stand your ground,’ and fails to adequately address the issue of victims of domestic violence.  But, the proliferators like it.

These bills, and the handful of other measures on offer in the Nevada Legislature should take into consideration what gun deaths and injuries actually COST.

The national cost has been estimated:

“Each injury caused by a firearm sets in motion a prolonged series of events. There’s a car-ride to the emergency room…or the morgue. An officer investigates. A jury perhaps deliberates. A judge presides.

This chain adds up. To the sum of $564 per American. All told, firearm injuries cost the United States more than $174 billion in 2010, according to new data from the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation. Most of that expense came from deaths; fatalities accounted for $153.3 billion.” [Forbes]

As we consider a cost-benefit analysis for bills which seek to soften Nevada’s gun regulations there are some factors which must be included.  Opponents of common sense gun regulations attacked the study, and accused media outlets which gave space and time for it as “hyping” the anti-gun report. However, that still doesn’t mean we ought not consider both the governmental and person costs of gun violence.  For example, in the governmental category we ought to include costs associated with police activities, and  the associated costs for the criminal justice system.  In economic terms we need to consider the loss of work/productivity, medical care (both physical and mental)  and associated costs such as emergency transport, insurance claims processing, and the loss of income for the family of the victim. [see PIRE pdf]

In short, any legislation which makes the purchase of firearms easier, and seeks to proliferate the number of firearms in the state, or increases the likelihood of a gun being used in public spaces,  should be analyzed in terms of its potential costs to the taxpayers and businesses of the state.

For every gun fatality in the state there is a police call. For every police call there is “officer(s) time,” vehicle fuel, vehicle mileage depreciation, and the attendant costs of emergency medical services including their personnel time, management, vehicle fuel and use, and supply expenses.  Every time the legislature makes it more likely a gun injury or fatality may occur the tax payers are expected to pick up the tab for additional calls.

For every gun fatality there is a trip to the morgue, the autopsy, the report, and the assessment of criminality.  Which means, of course, that there are expenses involved for the transportation involved, the supplies and equipment, the production of the report, and personnel costs.  Again, every time the legislature makes it more likely there will be a fatality – the tax payer is on the hook for the costs.

For every gun fatality there are economic costs.  The most obvious is the loss of the victim’s income.  That is money the family cannot spend on housing, food, transportation, clothing, and other basics in the local economy.  What we might not think of quite so often are costs to the employer.  For example, the individual’s productivity, often associated with years of experience and training, is lost to the business owner.  The business owner is now required to shell out the costs of recruiting a replacement, and the costs of training a new employee.   In the interim, work schedules have to be adjusted, shifts expanded, over-time to cover shifts paid out, and all the other expensive inconveniences which accrue to the employee replacement process.  The cost of training alone should give some of the members of the legislature pause:

“The costs to replace an employee vary by their earning level, so training costs also vary. The Sasha Corporation averaged the results of 15 studies that determined average costs to replace an $8 per hour employee, determining an average cost of $9,444.47 per turnover. Even when the 33 percent of estimates with the highest prices were removed from calculations, replacement costs were $5,505.80 per turnover. Chartcourse estimates it costs $40,000 on average to replace a nurse, while technology companies can run up replacement costs of more than $125,000 per vacancy.” [HBC]

If the average cost to replace a nearly minimum wage employee ranges from $5,050 to $9,500 any action on the part of the legislature to make a replacement necessary because of a gun related fatality or disabling injury should be taken into consideration.  Those who consider themselves champions of small business should be especially careful about any legislation which would pass these kinds of costs on to their constituents. 

We seem to be happy to require “cost-benefit” analysis for regulations pertaining to clean air and water – why not apply the analysis to regulations which make guns more available to more people?  The numbers support this:

“People of all age groups are significantly more likely to die from unintentional firearm injuries when they live in states with more guns, relative to states with fewer guns. On average, states with the highest gun levels had nine times the rate of unintentional firearms deaths compared to states with the lowest gun levels.” [LCPGV]

If the legislature wants to make guns easier to procure and more conveniently at hand, then it behooves them to apply some thought to the costs of intentional and unintentional fatalities and disabling injuries in economic terms.  

The Proliferation Lobby asserts that more ‘concealed carry guns’ mean safer communities.  By extension, we might assume this means there will be fewer gun fatalities?  However, if we look at the numbers for the status of concealed carry individuals involved in fatal shootings the numbers aren’t supportive of the argument from 2003 to the present:

“…544 incidents in 36 states and the District of Columbia resulting in 722 deaths. In 84 percent of the incidents (455) the concealed carry killer committed suicide (218), has already been convicted (177), perpetrated a murder-suicide (44), or was killed in the incident (16). Of the 69 cases still pending, the vast majority (60) of concealed carry killers have been charged with criminal homicide, four were deemed incompetent to stand trial, and five incidents are still under investigation. An additional 20 incidents were fatal unintentional shootings involving the gun of the concealed handgun permit holder. At least 17 of the victims were law enforcement officers. Twenty-eight of the incidents were mass shootings, resulting in the deaths of 136 victims.” [vpc]

A cost benefit analysis should incorporate the expenses involved in the suicides of concealed carry permit holders, the costs of murder-suicides, and the costs associated with police involvement in both intentional and unintentional shootings.

Let’s review.  More guns equates to more fatalities.  More fatalities bring with them costs both to local and state government agencies and to the local economy.  Merely because an individual has a concealed carry permit doesn’t mean the individual won’t be involved in an intentional or unintentional tragedy – with associated expenses.   Ergo, it is incumbent on a state legislature to attend to the governmental and economic costs of gun proliferation and associated fatalities and disabling injuries.

Since the costs are significant, there’s an argument to be made that before any legislation which seeks to proliferate the acquisition or availability of firearms is considered a good old fashioned cost benefit analysis needs to be done.

1 Comment

Filed under Gun Issues, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics

One response to “One Cost Benefit Analysis the Right Doesn’t Want to See: Gun Injury and Fatality Costs

  1. Tennessee is trying to force through guns-in-parks and a ream of other pro-gun bills before the NRA comes to visit in about 3 weeks. Most legislation goes into effect July 1 of the legislative year but these bills would go into effect April 1 to pander to the NRA. Would be good to get a cost benefit analysis on these bills first.