Gun violence in our country may collectively cost us up to nearly $200 billion each year, according to a study based on 2010 data by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, an independent public safety research group used by the Centers for Disease Control and other government agencies. That’s pretty expensive.
Let’s put it into context. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan cost us taxpayers something like $130 billion in 2012. Federal government spending on all education programs last year was just over $100 billion. Feeding poorer families with children under the food stamp program costs around $80 billion.
Do you know what else has an estimated annual economic cost to our society of around $200 billion? Cancer. The American Cancer Society reports on its website that the National Institutes of Health estimated the economic impact of cancer on the American economy in 2008 at $201.5 billion. Think about that for a minute. Gun violence is akin to a “cancer” on our economy and society of the same economic magnitude as actual cancer.
So, not only does the extreme view of a small but fanatically vocal minority of Americans who will respond to all proposed reasonable gun restrictions with a roar of “… SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED!” cost us the lives of more than 30,000 fellow citizens a year, including precious innocents like the 20 schoolchildren at Sandy Hook — it also economically costs us about the same as cancer does. Those lost lives and those lost dollars together are clearly too dear a price for supporting the extreme Second Amendment interpretations of the National Rifle Association leadership and the gun industry lobby, especially since the Supreme Court — the only body in our society with the authority to interpret the Constitution — has already determined in the 2008 Heller ruling that the right to keep and bear arms is not unlimited and may be regulated on public safety grounds.
To fight against the epidemic of cancer, any and every reasonable measure is utilized. After all, it is a matter of life and death. Fighting the epidemic of gun violence calls for the same approach. Loosely controlled access to guns, especially assault weapons and high capacity magazines, is poor public safety policy and does not make economic sense for Ahwatukee, Arizona, or America.
• Ahwatukee resident Bryan L. Brinkley is secretary of Arizona People Acting for a Safer Society (AZ PASS). For more information, visit www.azpass.org.