What price guns and gun violence?

Rendered image of Dollar sign crumbling

There is a price ( in dollars) for getting a permit to carry a gun around in public as well there should be. It varies from state to state. The laws passed do require law enforcement and agencies to spend time and do the paperwork to allow people to carry their weapons around on our streets. Thus people pay for their permits. And training classes are offered, at least in Minnesota, by people who are in the business of providing the mandated training. Thus people pay for the training.

In my state of Minnesota, the cost for a permit from local law enforcement is $100. And then the cost of taking a class to get the required training is $99 plus an added cost to go to the gun range which is the business of providing a place for people to practice their shooting skills or just go to enjoy shooting their guns.

Take a look at this “grabagun” online gun site to see the general cost of a handgun. It looks like about $400-$500 for one of these. Assault type rifles are more expensive starting at around $800 and much more for some depending on accessories. And then there is the ammunition which can also be quite expensive. On this site, you can “shoot now and pay later” in order to finance your purchase of a firearm. This site does require the firearms to go to a federally licensed firearms dealer near the buyer where a Brady background check will be conducted for another $10-$30 or so. We all know that private buyers who don’t go through a licensed seller don’t pay that fee.

I found this site which attempts to summarize the cost of buying and owning guns. It is not cheap to get involved with shooting sports. But then, it’s not cheap to get involved in running, hockey, skiing, biking and all of the other things that people do for recreation and sport. It’s not cheap to smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol or do drugs. The difference being, of course, that firearms are designed to kill or harm another human being or animal ( if used for hunting).

As an aside I would like to point out that we are at the least attempting to cut the costs and the harm,, injury , health care costs and liability from most of the other things I listed above. Not so much with guns and shootings.

And the cost in dollars to our country for gun violence, according to this Mother Jones article? $299 billion:

And solving a crisis, as any expert will tell you, begins with data. That’s why the US government over the years has assessed the broad economic toll of a variety of major problems. Take motor vehicle crashes: Using statistical models to estimate a range of costs both tangible and more abstract—from property damage and traffic congestion to physical pain and lost quality of life—the Department of Transportation (DOT) published a 300-page studyestimating the “total value of societal harm” from this problem in 2010 at $871 billion. Similar research has been produced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on the impact of air pollution, by the Department of Health and Human Services on the costs of domestic violence, and so on. But the government has mostly been mute on the economic toll of gun violence. HHS has assessed firearm-related hospitalizations, but its data is incomplete because some states don’t require hospitals to track gunshot injuries among the larger pool of patients treated for open wounds. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also periodically made estimates using hospital data, but based on narrow sample sizes and covering only the medical and lost-work costs of gun victims.

Why the lack of solid data? A prime reason is that the National Rifle Association and other influential gun rights advocates have long pressured political leaders to shut down research related to firearms. (…)

In collaboration with Miller, Mother Jones crunched data from 2012 and found that the annual cost of gun violence in America exceeds $229 billion. Direct costs account for $8.6 billion—including long-term prison costs for people who commit assault and homicide using guns, which at $5.2 billion a year is the largest direct expense. Even before accounting for the more intangible costs of the violence, in other words, the average cost to taxpayers for a single gun homicide in America is nearly $400,000. And we pay for 32 of them every single day.

Indirect costs amount to at least $221 billion, about $169 billion of which comes from what researchers consider to be the impact on victims’ quality of life. Victims’ lost wages, which account for $49 billion annually, are the other major factor. Miller’s calculation for indirect costs, based on jury awards, values the average “statistical life” harmed by gun violence at about $6.2 million. That’s toward the lower end of the range for this analytical method, which is used widely by industry and government. (The EPA, for example, currently values a statistical life at $7.9 million, and the DOT uses $9.2 million.)

In Arizona, if one legislator gets his way, those who want a permit to carry will be paid by the state to get one. Yes. You read that right. From the article:

Saying it promotes safety, the No. 2 House Republican wants the state to pay for Arizonans to get licensed to carry concealed weapons.

The proposal by House Majority Leader Steve Montenegro, R-Litchfield Park, would provide a dollar-for-dollar credit against state income taxes owed for the cost of training to get a CCW permit, up to $80. Put simply, any Arizonan who gets a permit could deduct that much from what he or she owes the state.

And if that person owes less than $80 at tax time, the difference would carry forward, reducing future tax liability.

Arizona law allows any adult to carry a concealed weapon.

I suppose we could also pay for drivers’ licenses and license plates and tabs as well. Why not? Would that promote citizens’ safety? And what, again, would this cost the state of Arizona? But never mind common sense because…….rights. This idea is so ludicrous that one wonders why it has even been floated. But then, the big gun lobby is always floating bills and ideas that will work to make our communities less safe. When profit comes before saving lives, this is what happens.

The cost of owning guns and getting a permit to carry is not cheap. And the cost to citizens in lost lives and the many other costs associated with shootings is also very high. Balancing rights with the rights of all of us to be safer in our communities is rarely part of the conversation we need to be having here. The public health approach and research would do a lot to advance the discussion in a way that would get people more on the same page. I think we can all agree that on one wants to be shot or to shoot someone else or to lose a loved one to bullets. It’s how we get there that leaves us with the gap in our thinking.

We can do better than this. A recent opinion piece in the Star Tribune asks us to do just that and the responses today mostly agree- even a gun permit holder. From the opinion piece:

Apples and oranges — comparing smoking to guns? (One is a choice, and the other is a “right,” protected by the Second Amendment.) No, not really; it’s about mind-sets. Because, taking that page out of the nonsmokers’ guide, even adults with “rights” can no longer smoke on an airplane or at church or in hospitals. Shopping malls have designated areas for smoking. That’s all because of the — wait for it — common good.

A person cannot smoke on school grounds, but in 18 states adults can legally carry guns onto school property — not to mention the likelihood that students illegally bring guns into schools. And there is no smoking in most religious institutions, and many have “no guns” signs posted, yet, let’s all pray that handgun is locked when it hits the floor or falls out of a purse. Or becomes an item to be investigated by a curious child.

We’ve managed to get a lot done when we’ve united for the health of all Americans. We took on the big tobacco companies. Clean indoor air is an example of what we can do when we put the common good ahead of the “wants” of a few. The National Rifle Association (NRA) wants more guns available and accessible; it “wants” less regulation and oversight. Bigger, faster and better weapons, more rounds. I and many people like me just want an end to the violence. I want lockdowns in classrooms to become obsolete.

You want a smoke? There is a time and a place for it, just as there is a time and a place for guns: at shooting ranges, at clay targets or tin cans on fence posts in the middle of nowhere, and during long-held family traditions of hunting.

So what can we all do to take the violence out of the guns? We desperately need to curb the “you can’t make me” attitude.” The “come and get it” grandstanding. (Thank you, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, and how much good did that little tantrum do? Another donation from the NRA?) That type of divisive rhetoric is part of the problem, not part of the solution. Gun owners and gun safety advocates should be able to sit down together, to look for reasonable compromises to end gun violence without resorting to name-calling and intimidation. I think we can agree to disagree on some issues; however, children shooting children is unacceptable. This is about the common good.

Where does the common good trump rights? It’s a good question. When 33,000+ Americans die yearly from gunshot injuries, something needs to be done. When children are shooting each other and themselves weekly or more, something needs to be done. When women and children are at risk for domestic shootings daily, we have a problem that needs addressing. What we are doing now is clearly not working. When young men of color are affected daily by gun deaths and injuries and have easy access to guns, something needs to be done. When the majority of gun deaths are because of suicides, something has to be done.

It’s past time to change the way we deal with gun safety and gun violence. We’ve had #enough. Let’s get to work.