Guns Save Lives And Money
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By Robert B. Young, MD

Let’s crunch some numbers, and ponder the economic cost of ‘gun violence.’ Mother Jones did in 2015 and concluded that the cost to society of shootings in 2012 was $229 billion, or over $700 per American (of 314 million of us back then). They parse this as each firearm-related death costing $6.2 million and medical care for gunshot injuries being $583,000 each.

There were 33,563 shooting deaths and 81,396 injuries in 2012, for nearly 115,000 individual lives lost or damaged. The human cost of these tragedies to those individuals is incalculable and can be demeaned by discussing them in dollars and cents. Yet they must be in order to tell where the balance of life and death points.

Consider that from 2010-2012, there averaged above 32,000 deaths and 67,000 injuries from shootings each year. (2012 was a little above the average, but this won’t matter for our purposes.) That translates to 10.2 firearm-related deaths per 100,000 and 22 injuries treated in ERs or hospitals.

Direct costs, including acute and long-term medical care, police and criminal justice costs right through prison expenses (the largest portion), added up to $8.6 billion. Indirect costs are mostly the negative impact on victims’ quality of life ($169 billion) and lost wages ($$49 billion). These calculations rested on assessing the average financial life at $6.2 billion, which is low compared to other’s. For example, the Department of Transportation used $9.2 million per person to estimate the total economic and quality of life losses from motor vehicle crashes in 2010 to be $870.8 billion.

We are no fans of Mother Jones. For one thing, like all righteous passivists, they ignore justified homicides—yet this is still impressive work. But now we can tell the rest of the story.

Recall that in April, we reported on Gary Kleck’s discovery that from 1996 through 1998, the CDC essentially replicated his 1992 survey of defensive gun uses, and confirmed his findings. Dr. Kleck found there were likely 2.1 to 2.5 million defensive gun uses in the United States during the year queried in his survey, 1992. The CDC’s results, adjusted to compare accurately with Kleck’s methodology, showed that an average of 2.23 million Americans defended themselves against another person with a firearm each year. That worked out to 1.125% of adult Americans in 1992 attempting a DGU. And that prevalence of DGUs by potential victims of crime occurred over 3 times as often as firearms were used by criminals.

[NB: Since this was published it came to my attention that Dr. Kleck is re-analyzing the CDC data again toward updating his paper. During the three years of CDC surveys, it seems that only15 states were covered. They contained about a quarter of the U.S. population then, although they were a mix of rural and urban, gun friendly and unfriendly. So they still support Kleck’s own survey findings as valid, but upon Dr. Kleck publishing his revised conclusions I will revisit the subject.]

In 1995 there were just over 15,000 shooting homicides, a near average from 1992 to 1998. There were roughly 81,000 non-fatal shooting injuries. From 1993 to 1997, about 51% of firearm-related deaths were homicides, 44% suicides, 3% accidental, and 2% otherwise.

In 1995, the United States’ adult population over age 19 increased from about 208 million in 1995 to about 231 million in 2012. (Kleck used 18 and up, again not significant for our purposes.) At the same time, the violent crime rate dropped from 684.5 per 100,000 in 1995 to 387.8 in 2012. Let’s say that the likely rate of DGUs has dropped proportionately, to 0.637%. That means there still should have been about 1.47 million DGUs in 2012.

In Kleck’s 1992 survey, he found that 46% of respondents believed that without their DGUs someone “might have” (16.2%), “probably would have” (14.2%) or “almost certainly would have” (15.7%) been killed. If nothing else, nearly half of these defenders were willing, ready and able to shoot, but did not necessarily end up doing so (saving criminal lives in the bargain).

Let’s very conservatively assume that in only 16% (the “almost certainly” group) of the nearly 1.5 million DGUs that probably occurred in 2012, the defender’s action saved injury or death (to someone innocent, even more commendable). If that occurred in 2012’s approximately 29% death to 71% injury ratio, these DGUs saved over 67,000 lives and 164,000 injuries. This means, according to Mother Jones’ own assumptions, economic savings to this countryjust from thwarting criminal assaults—of over $415 billion in lives plus $95 billion in injuries, totaling more than $511 billion in one year alone. That is over $1,600 for every man, woman and child, well over twice what we lose to all forms of firearm-related death and injury (homicide—justified or not, suicide, and accidents).

If one counts “probably would have,” let alone “might have,” we’re up to a trillion dollars in no time. We could add on the value of property not lost to theft, but that would just be rubbing it in, wouldn’t it?

There are plenty of assumptions here. But they are limited, and much more reasonable than the purposeful avoidance by anti-gun “researchers” and media of the actual, daily and widespread salvaging of lives that legal gun ownership and use entail. Guns in civilian hands are invaluable to this nation.

But how that’s accomplished is the most important thing: Guns save lives!


DRGO Editor Robert B. Young, MD is a psychiatrist practicing in Pittsford, NY, an associate clinical professor at the University of Rochester School of Medicine, and a Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.

This article originally appeared at and is reprinted here with permission. 

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  1. IIRC, a HUGE proportion of MoJo’s estimated cost was impact on quality of life, extrapolating from awards in wrongful death lawsuits. Apparently, the loss of quality of life for survivors of an already suicidal person or a gang member are the same as the average for people affluent enough to support a lawsuit.

    Another questionable item was the calculation of cost to imprison a convicted gun murderer for however many years – because the thug surely wouldn’t have been jailed for anything else during that time period.


  2. While one can applaud some of the medical profession standing up for SOME of the rights recognized in the US Constitution, it seems somewhat ridiculous to praise them for what they should be doing without hesitation or question anyway. Let’s not forget the medical/pharmaceutical partnership remains the 3rd leading cause of death in this country. Too many in this same profession also support the curbing of other individual rights, especially when it comes to health care. This opinion piece( sits on their site, and it is filled with 1/2 truths and outright false statements. Difficult to trust this group to do the right thing when they present spurious articles like this as their opinion.

    • Yet you call me a troll…

      This is a gun website… you keep bringing up anti vaccine myths and try to tie it to firearm issues… then if we argue with you you turn around and call us trolls… very liberal of you.

      Have you tried some essential oils to try to cure your anti-science mentality?… maybe some melaleuca can mela you out? 🙂

      • You’ve made spurious statements and avoided every direct question I’ve asked you. That’s a troll joe. And you help make my point, how can people who make unsubstantiated false statements about one thing be trusted asking statements on anything?

      • “There has literally, not figuratively, been billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of man/women hours spent studying the safety of vaccines. Every time a new theory comes out they spend more money and time researching those claims”-liljoe.

        Coming from a profile who is unable or for some reason unwilling to cite a single safety study. Priceless. You bluffed, you got called on it, and then you briefly surface for some (lame)ad hominem because you don’t have the science on your side. Troll.

        • I’ve avoided every question you’ve asked? I think there was one asking me for sources when you provide none.

          I’m not doing research for you, you might be lazy but I’m not going to feed into it.

          simple search on pubmed for vaccine + safety

          17+ thousand articles….

          Read one.

          Or look up articles about VAERS and what it does before you accuse doctors of covering up or ignoring adverse reactions from vaccines.

          This still doesn’t take away from my post above… typical liberal mentality, present troll-like behavior then accuse others of doing it.

        • Troll 101….post search engines as alleged evidence or proof. Joe, this is an outdated troll method. If you’re not the fraud you appear to be, and you have actually read at least several of the studies in this pubmed search engine you’ve posted, point out which ones which ARE NOT epidemiological papers comparing vaccinated groups against other vaccinated groups. Because you know that comparing like groups against each other is the very definition of tobacco science where big tobacco claimed smoking was safe by comparing groups of smokers against other groups of smokers, and as a doctor(😂) you would never accept tobacco science as a legitimate benchmark for pharmaceutical products, especially those intended for newborns, developing infants and growing children….when you tried to label me as “anti-science”, you were accurate in that I do not accept tobacco science in place of legitimate, reproducible true placebo control studies that are the gold standard for all other pharmaceutical products EXCEPT for vaccines.

        • BTW, very familiar with VAERS, it has serious problems with under-reporting. Maybe you should familiarize yourself with the 1986 Childhood Vaccine Injury Act which has paid out close to $ 4,000,000,000 in damages despite the vast majority of complaints being declined. The damages are paid by the consumer also, not the pharmaceutical companies, the companies are 100% shielded from liability, the only industry in the US to enjoy total protection from any harm its products cause.

        • Dude… life’s too short…

          You win… you’ve now convinced me vaccines are bad, cause autism, kill unicorns and are the main cause of early pattern male (and female) baldness… Since I now agree with your viewpoint, I won’t post any more responses when you make your well-founded, scientific, non-conspiracy claims against vaccines, doctors, pharma companies and our secret mole-people overlords.

          as the mole people say… I dig it!

          Now, as for trolling… not really into that. I don’t think I am, but since you feel I am, I’ll be happy to not get into discussions with you any more. It’s like real life, I’d rather hang out with people I like and who like me.

          Now to get on with the rest of my life and get out of my mom’s basement.

        • attempt at humor…fail. Stick to your day job joe. Good to see that you have enough sense to stop making false statements about a subject you have very limited knowledge on. You’re welcome.

  3. Damn straight guns save money. Not to long ago a group of hoodlums tried to rob me, Walmart parking lot of all places, when their leader grabbed me by the neck I yanked out my pistol and whacked him upside the head with it.

  4. “Guns Save Money”… pffft… yeah right.
    Try telling my wife that…
    Definitely suffering from a acute gun deficiency at my house.

  5. Finally someone gets to the point. It’s money. Individuals are meant to be productive for the needs of the government and the wealthy. The biggest chunk of our taxes goes to national defense. The ending of the great movie “THX1138” when the main character is “over budget” and the police no longer try to catch him.
    What ever happened to just caring for Americans?


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