Gun Violence

The Real Costs

by Philip J. Cook, Jens Ludwig

Series: Studies in Crime and Public Policy

100 billion dollars. That is the annual cost of gun violence in America according to the authors of this landmark study, a book destined to change the way Americans view the problem of gun-related violence.Until now researchers have assessed the burden imposed by gunshot injuries and deaths in terms of medical costs and lost productivity. Here, economists Philip Cook and Jens Ludwig widen the lens, developing a framework to calculate the full costs borne by Americans in a society where both gun violence and its ever-present threat mandate responses that touch every aspect of our lives.All of us, no matter where we reside or how we live, share the costs of gun violence. Whether waiting in line to pass through airport security or paying taxes for the protection of public officials; whether buying a transparent book bag for our children to meet their school's post-Columbine regulations or subsidizing an urban trauma center, the steps we take are many and the expenditures enormous.Cook and Ludwig reveal that investments in prevention, avoidance, and harm reduction, both public and private, constitute a far greater share of the gun-violence burden than previously recognized. They also employ extensive survey data to measure the subjective costs of living in a society where there is risk of being shot or losing a loved one or neighbor to gunfire.At the same time, they demonstrate that the problem of gun violence is not intractable. Their review of the available evidence suggests that there are both additional gun regulations and targeted law enforcement measures that will help.This urgently needed book documents for the first time how gun violence diminishes the quality of life for everyone in America. In doing so, it will move the debate over gun violence past symbolic politics to a direct engagement with the costs and benefits of policies that hold promise for reducing gun violence and may even pay for themselves.

In The Press

"The first effort to make a comprehensive estimate of the price the nation pays for criminal shootings, gun accidents, and suicides committed with guns."--The New York Times
"Marshalls new information and research to present a compelling picture of the true dimensions and extraordinary costs of gun violence in the United States. The book also debunks some of the key arguments of the NRA and its academic defenders....What makes Cook and Ludwig's book novel is their careful effort to calculate the total costs of gun violence."--The American Prospect
"Offers not one but three significant new ideas about how to comprehend and reduce gun violence in America."--The Denver Post
"Cook and Ludwig's approach is ambitious and pathbreaking. Theirs is the first attempt to document the many ways in which gun violence affects the United States, and they consider outcomes that are overlooked in most discussions. This important book will be a model for other research, and it should influence discussions of public policy.... Anyone with even a casual interest in the topic will profit from reading it."--New England Journal of Medicine
"Progress begins on social problems when it becomes possible to measure them. In that spirit come Professors Cook and Ludwig with this exceptional contribution." --Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan
"This book does two things, and it does them with thoroughness, skill, and honesty. It identifies what we should mean by 'the real costs,' and it offers responsible estimates. Readers looking only for ammunition to use on either side of the debate will be disappointed; readers who want the best guidance on how to think about the issue, and how to quantify their thinking, will find clarity, reason, and the best data available. There is no comparable work."--Thomas C. Schelling, Distinguished University Professor of Economics, University of Maryland; Past President of the American Economic Association
"Gun violence diminishes the quality of all our lives, threatening hearts and pocketbooks. No one is immune. Cook and Ludwig document the $100 billion cost of the havoc wrought by firearms and provide compelling proof of the need to end the carnage."--Susan Baker, Professor of Health Policy and Management, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health
"A clear, well-written and balanced tour through a maze of competing statistical claims and economic arguments. The Real Costs of Gun Violence is a major contribution to our understanding of both gun violence and the costs of violent crime."--Franklin E. Zimring, William G. Simon Professor of Law; Director, Earl Warren Legal Institute, University of California at Berkeley

About The Author

Philip J. Cook is the ITT/Sanford Professor of Public Policy at Duke University and Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research. He has been conducting research on firearms and violence for over 25 years, and has served as consultant to the Departments of Justice and the Treasury. He has written extensively on alcohol control, gambling, the economics of crime, and other topics, and is co-author of The Winner-Take-All Society (1995) and Selling Hope: State Lotteries in America (1989).Jens Ludwig is Assistant Professor of Public Policy at Georgetown University and Affiliated Expert of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research. He conducts research on public policies related to crime and education, and has provided testimony on gun policy to state legislatures and other groups in California, Kansas, and Minnesota.