US firearm violence costs $557 billion annually

Comparable to 2.6 percent of US Gross Domestic Product

Citing a Harvard Medical School research study published in the journal JAMA, Time Magazine reported that gun violence costs the U.S. some $557 billion annually, or 2.6% of gross domestic product.

The Time article notes: “Gun violence that causes tens of thousands of U.S. deaths each year—far more than any other developed nation—is having a significant, negative impact on the country’s economy, Harvard Medical School researchers said…Harvard Medical School researchers found that gun violence costs the U.S. some $557 billion annually, or 2.6% of gross domestic product…The majority of that cost is attributed to quality-of-life losses among those injured by firearms and their families.”

Citing the same $557 billion number, Everytownresearch.org points out: “In an average year, gun violence in America kills 40,000 people, wounds twice as many, and has an economic consequence to our nation of $557 billion.

Without a doubt, the human cost of gun violence—the people who are taken from us and the survivors whose lives are forever altered—is the most devastating. In addition to this human impact, examining the serious economic consequences of gun violence offers a wider lens for understanding just how extensive and expensive this crisis is.”

Everytownresearch.org adds: “This staggering $557 billion figure is five times the nation’s budget for the Department of Education, which funds preschool through college for millions of Americans…If shooting tragedies were prevented from occurring in the first place, the vast funds spent in the aftermath of gun violence could be directed toward beneficial and productive investments such as educating the next generation…This $557 billion problem represents the lifetime costs associated with gun violence, including three types of costs: immediate costs starting at the scene of a shooting, such as police investigations and medical treatment; subsequent costs, such as treatment, long-term physical and mental health care, earnings lost to disability or death, and criminal justice costs; and cost estimates of quality of life lost over a victim’s life span for pain and suffering of victims and their families.”

What if we reduced that figure by $100 billion—less than 20%?
A 2023 article in nationalpriorities.org points out: “Here are seven things we could do with $100 billion…Power every household in the United States with solar energy…Hire one million elementary school teachers amid a worsening teacher shortage…Provide free tuition for 2 out of 3 public college students in the U.S…Send every household in the U.S. a $700 check to help offset effects of inflation…Hire 890,000 Registered Nurses to address shortages…Cover medical care for 7 million veterans…Triple current enrollment in Head Start, from 1 million children and families to 3 million.”

According to a 2024 Bloomberg article, that $100 billion represents the entire budget of Thailand.

Cast another way, that $100 billion could have gone a long way toward supporting Congressional funding efforts. Notes a year-end 2023 article in Punchbowl News: “House GOP leaders, meanwhile, walked away from the spending levels spelled out in May’s Fiscal Responsibility Act agreement, opting to cut spending by another $100 billion. Of course, that partisan approach didn’t go over well with Democrats and led to the House compiling an abysmal track record.”

Anyone can conjecture about how to reduce gun violence costs by at least $100 billion. In one US city, however, a 20% drop in homicides is raising eyebrows—in a good way. It shows that, beyond hypotheses, dedicated efforts can make a large dent sooner than later. And from that, it can be extrapolated that associated costs can drop a similar amount. Notes a 2024 CBS News report: “Baltimore celebrates historic 20% drop in homicides even as gun violence remains high…Long plagued by rampant gun violence, Baltimore recorded less than 300 homicides last year for the first time in nearly a decade…Long plagued by rampant gun violence, Baltimore recorded less than 300 homicides last year for the first time in nearly a decade…The 20% annual decrease, which city leaders called the largest ever, suggests Baltimore’s ongoing anti-violence efforts are working…‘We’re nowhere near where we want to be, but 20% is substantial. We have to celebrate,’ said Ray Kelly, a longtime Baltimore police reform activist who attended the vigil. ‘That’s 60 less families getting heartbreaking news.’”

Given how much effort is involved in helping one gun violence survivor family, we can attest that 60 fewer is a huge improvement. With Baltimore comprising about 1/600th of the nation’s population, think of the massive positive ramifications that can result from a reduction in gun violence—and the associated reduction in efforts needed to help people whose lives have been needlessly devastated.

©2024 Survivors Empowered