ALBANY — Gun violence in New York not only carries a social cost, but a hefty economic one as well, a new analysis shows.
Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a group founded by former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, looked at gun incidents in New York and found the overall economic cost exceeds a whopping $ 5.6 billion a year.
Using data from the Centers for Disease Control, Giffords found that New York annually averages 432 gun-related homicides, 1,499 nonfatal shootings, and 105 accidental shootings.
The fact sheet released by the organization notes that even though the state, thanks to some of the toughest gun laws in the country, has the third-lowest number of gun deaths per capita among states, “the 2,747 shootings that occur each year in New York are a serious drain on the state’s economy.”
Giffords Law Center found in excess of $ 2.1 billion in direct costs, including $ 106 million per year on health care, $ 203 million for law enforcement and criminal justice expenses, $ 12 million in costs to employers, and $ 1.7 billion in lost income.
Up to 85% of gunshot victims are either uninsured or on some form of publicly funded insurance, the analysis says.
Businesses are also impacted.
“Shootings engender fear in affected neighborhoods, which keeps potential customers away, forces businesses to relocate or limit hours of operation, and decreases foreign and local tourism,” the analysis says.
On top of that, the report found, there is $ 3.6 billion associated costs resulting from reduced quality of life attributable to pain and suffering.
The financial analysis was done by an economist at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, said Ari Freilich, staff attorney for the Giffords Law Center.
“The costs are massive — the human and moral costs and also the fiscal costs we share as taxpayers and society at large,” said Kelly Drane, a Giffords Law Center public health research associate.
“New York State is actually a national leader (in gun control), but even so, the cost of gun violence, even in one of our safest states, is enormous.”
Pro-gun advocates dismissed the economic findings as made up at worst, and dubious at best.
“I have no idea how they can possibly quantify that,” said Tom King, president of the state Rifle and Pistol Association and an NRA board member.
King complained that there is also no context to the report.
“If you want to look at cost to society, look at the cost that cars are causing society,” he said. “Look at the cost that liquor is costing society. It’s a lot more than the money attributed to gun violence.”
He said much of the gun violence takes place in the inner cities and often is drug related. “How much does the drug culture cost the city of New York?” he asked.
But guns are a factor in much of the crime and suicides in New York.
Separate from the Giffords report, stats provided at the request of the Daily News by the state Department of Criminal Justice Services show that in 2016, 367 of the 628 murders committed across the state, or 58%, involved firearms.
In New York City, 61% of the 335 murders in 2016 involved a gun. There were also 5,393 violent crimes in the city involving guns in 2016, according to the state stats. That was down 18% from the 6,577 gun-related violent crimes in 2015.
Overall, guns were used in 11% of the total violent crimes committed in New York City in 2016, and 13.1% the prior year.
Outside the city, the percentage of violent crimes involving a gun actually rose 4% in 2016 over 2015, with 180 more crimes committed with firearms.
Meanwhile, the state Health Department provided figures at the request of The News showing that between 2013 and 2015, there were 4,931 suicides in the state, of which 1,343, or 27.2%, involved firearms.
Hoping to address the issue of suicide, domestic violence and other issues involving firearms, Giffords, with other advocates, is prioritizing three gun control bills this state legislative session.
The first would allow family members or law enforcement to petition a judge for “Extreme Risk Protection Orders,” which would allow police to temporarily confiscate firearms and prevent the purchase of additional weapons by those deemed at risk of causing harm to themselves or others.
A second bill would require all firearms be taken from anyone charged with a domestic violence offense, while the third would create a state firearms research institute.
“Part of the story we want to tell is that even with the strong gun laws (in New York), there’s still other things that can be done to address the gun violence and the impacts it has,” said Robin Lloyd, Giffords director of government affairs.
The chances of passage remain slim. The Republicans in the state Senate have not taken up any gun control measures since the passage five years ago after the Newtown, Conn., school massacre of tough gun control measures pushed by Gov. Cuomo known as the SAFE Act.