Some of you may have met my husband, Dan, at a charity event or at one of
our annual baseball games. He’s over six feet tall, with a full beard and a
shaved head. He can come off as pretty intimidating if you don’t know him.
Before I knew his name, I knew him by sight as the guy who was always in
the Rutgers dining hall for hours at a time, looking kind of broody (turns out
he was just hungry). When you do get to know him a bit, Dan gives off a very
“still waters run deep” kind of vibe. Even now, fourteen years after meeting
him, I don’t usually think of him as a person who has anxiety or fears.
A few weeks ago, when the Nashville school shooting happened, I was
watching my five-year-old twins leave the house for school one morning. All of
a sudden, my stomach was gripped with fear. I imagined the worst happening
to them at school one day, a terror beyond description. When I brought it up
to Dan later, he nodded. “That happens to me every day when I watch them
walk in to school,” he said. I was floored. I had no idea that he was
experiencing this terror on a daily basis, every time he watched our twins with
their too-large backpacks disappear behind their preschool doors.
As the one-year anniversary of the Uvalde school shooting approaches, I
wanted to look at the numbers that illustrate the impact of gun violence on our
society. Although “mass shootings*” gather the most headlines, casualties
from active shooter incidents represent only a small fraction of the total
number of gun-related fatalities. According to Time Magazine, “45,222 people
died from gun-related injuries in the U.S. and gunshot wounds were the
leading cause of death for kids and teens under 19,” in 2020. The Pew
Research Center states that guns caused 48,830 deaths in 2021.
Approximately 60% of gun-related fatalities are suicides. When I was
researching this article on May 5th, the Gun Violence Archive listed 14,457
total gun violence deaths so far in 2023.
(In researching this article, I came across different definitions for different
terms that I once thought were interchangeable, i.e. mass murder, mass
shooting, active shooter incident. It can be difficult to pin down exact
definitions for these terms, so proceed with caution when reading the news or
doing your own research.)
According to a recent FBI report on active shooting incidents in America, there
were 50 incidents in 2022 where “one or more individuals actively engaged in
killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area” (quoted on CNN).
Although the number of “active shooter” incidents in 2022 was down 18%
from 2021, the total is up 66.7% from 2018. Approximately 100 people died
during these incidents, and hundreds more were injured. The Gun Violence
Archive describes mass shootings as “for the most part an American
Since we’re a wealth management and financial planning company, let’s talk
about the cost of gun violence, and the impact that it has on the economy. In
2022, Time Magazine wrote that “Harvard Medical School researchers found
that gun violence costs the U.S. some $557 billion annually, or 2.6% of gross
domestic product.” Everytown for Gun Safety breaks down this figure further:
“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.” Approximately $12.62 billion of this total is shouldered by
American taxpayers. Millions of dollars are spent every day on medical costs
and police expenses. Everytown for Gun Safety writes that “…states with high
levels of gun violence face higher associated costs, whereas states with lower
levels of gun violence and strong commonsense gun laws face a lower financial
burden.” In further discussing the Harvard Medical School research, Time
Magazine writes that “revenue and productivity losses resulting from gun
injuries to workers cost private companies an additional $535 million a year.” If
you survive a gunshot wound, it’ll cost you around $30,000 in the first year
after you get shot. For some families, caring for a gunshot wound survivor
over the years costs millions.
These numbers illustrate the experience of being a person in America in 2023,
where headlines about our dead wash up and then recede like the tide, only to
come back again like ghastly clockwork.
Sometimes my daughter likes to sing to herself. Usually it’s “Let it Go,” or “Do
You Want to Build A Snowman.” One morning, as I was half asleep, she stood
by my bed and had to sing all ten verses of a nursery rhyme before she could
tell me what she wanted (she needed help flushing the toilet, and absolutely
could not use it until it had been flushed). The other day I heard her singing
“Locks, light, out of sight!” to herself as she played.
Maybe by the time that she’s old enough to write articles of her own, we won’t
need to teach that anymore. Maybe.