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What the Cost of Gun Violence Costs Us

Every year, more than 43,000 Americans are killed with guns and approximately 76,000 more are shot and wounded. This gun violence costs our nation $557 billion every year. 

This figure includes:

  • Health care costs for medical bills and mental health support;
  • Lost wages and work missed due to injury or death;
  • Productivity, revenue, and costs required to recruit and train replacements for victims and survivors of gun violence; 
  • Quality-of-life costs from the suffering and lost well-being of gun violence victims, survivors, and their families; and
  • Police and criminal justice costs.

With more than 115,000 people shot and killed or wounded each year, the human cost of gun violence in America is staggering. And whether we own a gun or not, we all pay for the enormous costs associated with this violence. Families, friends, survivors, employers, and entire communities suffer the long-term and irreparable impacts of these tragedies—physically, emotionally, and financially. 

On Tax Day, we are reminded of the toll that gun violence takes on the American public, a cost that American taxpayers are paying because the gun industry refuses to put people over profits. Read below to hear from six survivors about what the cost of gun violence in America has cost them.

Stories have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

It Cost Me My Son and His Presence in the World

Nicole Fitzpatrick, in honor of Jaiden Dixon

Don’t ever think that gun violence can’t happen to you.

On November 22, 2013, my 9-year-old son Jaiden was shot and killed when he opened the front door of our home. 

People tell me they can’t imagine what I’ve been through. Imagine it. It is worse than hell. 

You’re forced to adapt to the universe and figure out how to live again. 

You’re forced to figure out how to get out of bed. How to pay bills. How to try to be a mom to your other kids. How to deal with anxiety attacks. How to deal with feeling incomplete. How to deal with flashbacks. How to deal with the feeling that your child has been erased in the world

Jaiden was beautiful. Innocent. Goofy. Kind. Funny. Inquisitive. Caring.

And Jaiden deserved to live more than just nine years. 

I love him, and I miss him so much.

It Cost Me the Only Man I Ever Loved

McKay Moore Sohlberg, in memory of Olof Erick Sohlberg

My husband, Olof Erick Sohlberg, ended his life with a gun on April 25, 2011, at our home. 

On the day he died, Olof had lunch with our daughter, ran some errands, texted me about dinner, and then purchased a gun. Three hours later, he took his own life with a firearm.

In an instant, I lost the only man I’ve ever loved—whom I had known since my teens—and the father of my girls. I was thrown into financial uncertainty, worried about how we would afford to stay in our home and how I could pay for our girls’ schooling. Olof was the primary wage earner, and we had two children in private colleges and a senior in high school. 

Olof had managed our finances, so after his death, I had to figure things out. I was more fortunate than many; Olof had retirement savings and a life insurance policy that could help us in the short term. His death changed the long-term trajectory of what we had both planned, mostly in terms of retirement. I’m working longer than I would have, and a lot of that is to maintain health care coverage, which is so expensive. 

The trauma of Olof’s death extended far beyond my immediate family. Even just thinking about the health-care costs from Olof’s suicide—every single family member who sought mental health care, and our friends—I can think of 20 people, just counting quickly, who sought mental health services after his death.

It Cost Me My Son and His Blossoming Career

Nicole W., in honor of Antonio Maurice Wilson Jr.

My son, Antonio M. Wilson Jr., was robbed of his life, snatched from his son and siblings, and cheated out of his blossoming career as a writer, singer, and rapper at the young age of 27.

Tony was shot multiple times in a drive-by shooting on November 14. No one else was hit by the barrage of gunfire, just my baby. Tony fought for his life for 16 days in the hospital before succumbing to his injuries. His killing is still unsolved.

I struggle every day to live without my son. I’m waiting to wake up from this nightmare. This mental, physical, and emotional rollercoaster has taken a toll on the entire family. My grandson Kordai has been stripped of the privilege and honor to be raised in a two-parent household with the love, stability, and financial support that brings. And with every milestone and special occasion in his life, he can only imagine what it could have been like if his father was there. 

I will forever honor my son Antonio in the fight to end gun violence.

It Cost Him the Use of His Right Arm—and Us Our Peace

Julie Chevalier, in honor of Kyle

At 2:18 a.m. on May 19, 2019, I received a call that no mother ever wants to receive. When I answered,  it was a stranger on the other end, screaming “Are you Kyle’s mother? He was shot!” My 21-year-old son, Kyle, had been shot 3 times.

That phone call and those words replay in my mind unwillingly.

Kyle attended a party. He stepped out of a vehicle and was there less than three minutes when a car drove by and began shooting. Kyle was hit in his neck and stomach, instantly paralyzing his right arm. The doctor said Kyle is a lucky man to have survived the shooting. 

That person has since been caught and that person is a stranger. Although he shot into a crowd, my son was the only one hit that night. 

More than the physical toll this has taken, the psychological factors have been much worse on Kyle, me, my husband, and my other children. We are more than lucky that he survived. And not a day goes by that I don’t recount some part of that night.

It Cost Me My Friend, My Professor, and My Sense of Security

Amanda Rosenberger, in memory of Galen Gibson and Nacunan Saez

I went to a small college in an idyllic rural setting, surrounded by people who shared my enthusiasm for learning. College was a safe refuge, a place where I could immerse myself in my education fearlessly.

On December 14, 1992, an 18-year-old classmate of mine went into a sporting goods store, showed his driver’s license, and walked out of the door with a semi-automatic rifle. For reasons I still don’t understand, he returned to our campus that night and used that rifle to go on a shooting rampage. 

He murdered my dear friend, Galen, also 18, and a beloved professor, Nacunan, who was 36. The murderer injured four others before he surrendered. The only reason the toll was not more devastating was because his gun jammed repeatedly that night.

That beautiful snowy winter evening, a week before final exams, my sense of refuge and security was violently and irretrievably shattered. I heard the gunshots and heard the sobs and cries of pain from my community when the names of the dead were announced.

Since then, I finished my education, went on to earn a doctorate, and I now teach on a college campus. I have held on to my love of learning, but I feel a pang when I am walking on my campus now, particularly when the smell of snow is in the air. 

I miss my friend, who gave the best hugs, had the best smile, and told ridiculous jokes. I miss my professor, who taught my very first college class—I miss his bouncy walk, his long, trailing scarves and jaunty hat, his easy brilliance with languages, and, most of all, the utmost faith he expressed to his students in their abilities and potential, a quality I try to emulate as an educator today.

It Cost Me Tens of Thousands of Dollars

Andi Sporkin

On a beautiful January night, in a residential section of Los Angeles, I experienced gun violence as the target of an armed robbery and attempted kidnapping. I survived, but it changed my life forever.

We survivors talk publicly about the impact of gun violence on our state of mind, relationships, activities, and more. But less publicized is how it affects us financially. 

In the years since, the emotional aftermath I experienced has directly cost me tens of thousands of dollars: in choosing costly housing that provided ultra-high-level security; equally high-security garages; bills for counseling, taxis, and other services solely to make me feel safe.

These were not expenses I ever anticipated; this was earned income that rightfully belonged in my savings. Instead, I’ve had to pay a lifelong emotional and financial penalty.

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