Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Followup On the True Cost of Gun Violence

Today's must read.

Miller's approach looks at two categories of costs. The first is direct: Every time a bullet hits somebody, expenses can include emergency services, police investigations, and long-term medical and mental-health care, as well as court and prison costs. About 87 percent of these costs fall on taxpayers. The second category consists of indirect costs: Factors here include lost income, losses to employers, and impact on quality of life, which Miller bases on amounts that juries award for pain and suffering to victims of wrongful injury and death.

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.


  1. I meant to fisk this when you posted it earlier, but didn’t get around to it. It’s patently ridiculous how they came up with this $229B number. Let’s count up the ways. First, they didn’t account for any substitution. I addressed this in this thread below where they claimed the medical costs of gun violence to be $700 million. Think about that for a second. Total medical costs are considered to be $700 million, but in this “true cost” guesstimate, they managed to come up with a number 327 times higher than hospital costs (which should be a pretty big piece of the pie) when including the other factors. That should be a big hint of the wild exaggerations we expect to find as we dig into their “study”.


    Essentially they are not considering that if a criminal didn’t have access to a gun that they might stab someone instead, and that said stabbing victim would still need to be treaded in hospitals and in some cases would incur more costs if a less deadly weapon were used because a lengthy rehab is more expensive than a trip to the morgue. For this $229B number, they have expanded that same philosophy to cover incarceration costs concluding that if that gun weren’t around, “Mr. five-to-ten-years-for-armed-robbery” would not have armed himself with something else to rob that liquor store, and instead would go on to be a productive and positively contributing member of society. Speaking of which, they also considered that every victim of gun violence would otherwise be a productive and positively contributing member of society, and not one of those people who instead cost $5.2 billion/year (for gun offenses alone) to house in prison. To come up with these figures, they have assumed that all gun violence is choir boys shooting other choir boys.

    But that pales in comparison to the $170 Billion/year for “quality of life” that they came up with via rectal extraction. Really? 170 billion dollars… per year. This article says Miller based that amount on “pain and suffering” awards by juries, but clearly there are not $170B/yr in civil awards for gun violence victims every year. Miller must have taken an example and then extrapolated it to every victim (even those who were “victimized” while committing crimes) whether or not they would have a snowballs chance in hell of winning a lawsuit. If you applied that same logic to the recent RJ Reynolds suit and extrapolated it out to every person who contracted lung cancer from smoking you would get a “true cost” of smoking of $4.0x10^16... as in 40 Quadrillion dollars.

  2. 'Fisking' is a dishonest practice employed by clowns.

    That said, TS, you are, per usual, confused. WRT gunshot injuries/hospital costs--the facts are out there. And, as usual, you insist on trying to match apples to oranges. First, the $700M figure you cite is from a 2010 Urban Institute study. Said study states "Firearm-assault-injury hospital use is measured by adding (1) the number of firearm-assault-injury emergency department visits that do not lead to
    admission to (2)the number of firearm-assault-injury hospital stays."

    The study also counts only non-fatal gun woundings.

    The MoJo study counts both wounding and deaths. It also counts followup medical costs. In many cases, a hospital stay may include other hospital stays and follow on treatment.

    Re stabbings--again, the facts militate against you. Stabbing medical costs are roughly 20% of gun violence costs--even though stabbings are more prevalent. Mainly because a gun is a far and away better weapon for inflicting damage to a human body.

    Re the indirect costs--Miller's methodology isn't controversial. Indeed, his research and findings are peer-reviewed.


  3. Still more to bury TS:


    1. So Jade, you are of the opinion that all the people in prison for committing gun violence would have led productive lives if they never got hold of a gun? They would not commit any violence, and would never get arrested, or end up in prison? Instead they would get a job, pay taxes, and contribute to society? Is that what you think? And the same goes for all the people who got shot? Did the gun talk to them? Send subliminal messages to commit violence? This figure is added up the cost of all people in prison for a gun offense as if they wouldn’t be in prison if not for the gun. Does that seem right to you?

      Jade: “Mainly because a gun is a far and away better weapon for inflicting damage to a human body.”

      These figures don’t consider any substitution. That’s my point.

      I keep bringing up the CDC’s cost of smoking for perspective.


      Smoking costs the United States billions of dollars each year.1,5
      • Total economic cost of smoking is more than $300 billion a year, including
      o Nearly $170 billion in direct medical care for adults5
      o More than $156 billion in lost productivity due to premature death and exposure to secondhand smoke1

      Mother Jones seemed to use this number (or something close to it) in their figures, but we can see it is not an apples to apples comparison. The CDC is not adding “quality of life” cost to these figures, which MoJo used to nearly quadruple the cost of gun violence to make it seem like it is on par with smoking (170 out of the 229 goes to that category). The CDC only considered direct cost, and lost productivity. Like I said above, if they employed the same tactics with “quality of life” costs, smoking costs would be in the quadrillions. Furthermore they are basing this number on jury awards (which isn’t a cost- it’s an exchange of money), and added up all the gun injuries and gun death- including suicides as if a jury would award people for offing themselves. And remember the direct costs are 20x higher than the $8.6B they came up with even when you include prison costs.

      Finally, they are not attributing any positive effects of gun ownership. I know you guys think it is far outweighed by the bad, but Mother Jones counted all gun violence as being a “cost” to society. So if a gun owner kills in self-defense a violent thug who has been in and out of prison his whole life, they don’t subtract the good guy’s rest-of-life earnings from their productivity count. Instead they assume the thug would have contributed $400,000 to society if he weren’t killed while attempting murder, and not continued his life path through the prison system.

    2. Too easy, TS.

      Some may have gone on to live productive lives, some may have have had just a passing acquaintance with the penal system. The fact remains--you use a gun in a crime--the penalties are are much stiffer than if you punched someone in the nose. Certainly, the financial cost would be a whole lot less if fisticuffs rather than gunfire were employed.

      Re smoking. Yes, it's a problem. But, unlike gunloonery, we realized it's a problem and have taken steps to mitigate it. There are education programs--even laws preventing advertising and selling to minors. But the really big difference is that you can't compel someone to smoke if they don't want to. Can't say that about gun violence.

      "Finally, they are not attributing any positive effects of gun ownership."

      True enough. But what the study doesn't count is what's known as 'societal friction.' These are the costs of additional security to keep guns (and other weapons) out of places like airliners, schools, courthouses, etc.

      We all get to share the share the cost of your fetish.

    3. TS, you're really hung up on the substitution game. It doesn't really make sense to me. I didn't see anyone suggesting that if guns magically disappeared there would be NO cost to society. You invented this argument and assigned it to your opponents. That's a straw man, isn't it?

    4. Just a “passing acquaintance”, Jade? Are you not willing to admit that most people who commit murder have a violent history? Are you not willing to admit that there is big portion of the population who aren’t positive contributors to society, and that is also correlated with violence? Then you go on to suggest I was talking about fist fights. I am not talking about simple fist fights, Jade- I am talking about people who are trying to kill other people. You gun control types, always want to paint the picture of normal well-adjusted gun owners snapping and “escalating” a situation into murder. Sure, you can find cases like that, but it is rather insignificant compared to the real root of the problem.

      Jade: “But the really big difference is you can’t compel someone to smoke…”

      Uh, ever hear of second hand smoke, Jade? Actually, the really big difference is that smoking doesn’t also positively contribute to someone’s health. Guns have a good side, and a bad side. Mother Jones counted it all up as being bad.

      I noticed that you haven’t addressed my biggest gripe about this number. They added up all the direct costs (including falsely adding all prison cost). Then they added the much larger “indirect cost” (which isn’t really borne by taxpayers, but they act like it is). That still didn’t look like a shockingly large enough number to publish, so they take it a step further and nearly quadruple it with their “quality of life” cost estimate, and then stick that number next to other cost estimates (like smoking) that don’t include “quality of life” costs. Now they can say “That’s more money than Apple makes!” to get gullible people like you to share it on their Facebook page. That’s dishonest don’t you think?

      Mike, they are presenting this number as if it is a preventable cost, don’t you think? They then divide it by people to say “your share is X” implying that it’s money they could have if only they’d support more gun control. But, it is only implied, so I will give you that, but it is aimed at gullible people who will believe that. My main gripe is the vast over exaggeration techniques that they used to come up with $229B/yr.

    5. "Mike, they are presenting this number as if it is a preventable cost, don’t you think? "

      No, I didn't see it that way.

      Even if they are exaggerating, isn't the cost truly great? Doesn't it outweigh the good? Don't guns do more harm than good?