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Public Health - Seattle & King County

Economic costs of firearm deaths and injuries

  • Nationally, direct medical costs and lost productivity due to firearm deaths and injuries was estimated at about $32 billion in 2005.4 Another study of U.S. firearm injuries from 1994 estimated a cost of $2.3 billion in lifetime medical costs alone, an average of $17,000 per injury.5 When costs associated with long-term disability, pain and suffering, diminished quality of life, and other indirect costs such as decreases in real estate values due to neighborhood safety issues are included, the price tag reaches $100 billion annually or, as estimated by another study, an average annual cost of $1,300 per person.6

  • In King County, based upon data from 2007-2011, the average annual cost of firearm deaths and nonfatal hospitalizations was $177 million due to medical expenses and lost productivity. Direct medical costs were $2.2 million, and work lost accounted for $174 million annually.7,8

  • The average charge for a firearm hospitalization was $66,000.

  • Seattle: A recent study of eight U.S. cities, including Seattle, examined the economic benefits of reducing crime (i.e., homicide, rape, assault, and robbery).9 The majority of all violent crimes involve weapons. Handguns are used in 67% of homicides, 41% of robberies, and 20% of aggravated assaults.10 In 2010, violent crime cost Seattle $89 million, or $144 per resident. An often overlooked aspect of homicide is the cost to residential housing values. Researchers estimated that a 10% reduction in homicides would boost the total value of all residential housing by $2.9 billion in the Seattle metropolitan area. Moreover, a 10% reduction in violent crime in Seattle could save more than $2 million per year, reduce the direct costs to victims by more than $2 million per year, and avert nearly $22 million in annual, intangible costs to victims.

Table 1: Estimated direct and indirect costs of violent crimes, Seattle 2010 ($ in millions)

Direct costs (in millions)
Intangible and total costs
Victim
(medical costs)
Justice
System
Productivity losses
(criminals)
Total Direct
Intangible
Total Direct and Intangible
Seattle
$21
$56
$12
$89
$216
$305
Source: Shapiro and Hassett, 2010.
Direct costs per resident: $144
Total costs per resident: $492


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