Gun Control 2013: 70 People Flee Their Chicago Neighborhood For Every Gun Murder

Gun control opponents often cite social implications — rescinding rights, preventing people from practicing hobbies, and restricting their ability to feel protected by their weapon of choice. It is less often that we think of the economic implications gun control could and probably would have. Bloomberg published a comprehensive report of economic effects of gun violence in Chicago and the numbers are astounding.

Nationwide, gun violence costs the American people $100 billion annually. What people need to realize is the aim of gun control is not to prevent those who hunt from hunting, it is to prevent those who commit baseless crimes and end innocent lives by the thousands each year in America’s cities from owning guns. Reining in gun laws would not only have a psychological impact on the people affected, but also an economic one.

Those of us who are fortunate enough to live in areas not plagued by violence can easily dismiss the issue of gun control altogether — it does not affect us. However, if we put ourselves in the shoes of the families in the South Side of Chicago, where the population dropped 19.2% last year according to the Census Bureau, we can imagine what it would be like to have our parents and children at risk in their own homes and in their own yards at every hour of the day. 

Chicago has a homicide rate higher than both New York City and Los Angeles. The costs of this are off the charts. Each homicide requires an autopsy, ambulance and hospital service, trauma surgeons, detectives, and rehab — amounting to tens of thousands of dollars. There are several other factors, some of the most expensive, that are not directly related to gun violence. These include the cost of keeping more police on duty and having them work overtime. Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago, cites a lessening of homicides this year, but it is important to remember that it comes with the higher cost of an inflated police force. Additionally, there is a high cost to the neighborhoods where violence is common. People and businesses flee and soon the area is a wasteland even more welcoming to violence. Steven Levitt relays the magnitude of depopulation in his book Freakanomics — each homicide results in an average of 70 people fleeing the area. That's huge, especially for a neighborhood and a city that sees thousands of homicides per year. 

Time of year is also a factor. Chicago police say as soon as the temperature warms up, homicides increase. Dr. Andrew Dennis said during the summer he would see up to 20 gunshot victims in one 24-hour shift. Even more discouraging, it is not uncommon for Dr. Dennis to see repeat victims. 

Each year, shootings cost the city of Chicago $2.5 billion per year. That amounts to approximately $2,500 per household. All of the city's residents pay for the gun violence that occurs anywhere in the city. If even just a portion of the homicide rate were reduced, money could be saved to fund other public services. It is frustrating for a city to see such a drain on resources due to frivolous violence in addition to the emotional and human aspect of the trauma. While gun control laws may not solve every gun-related problem, they could help us omit that small portion of violence that could be prevented. Hopefully quantifying the far-reaching economic effects homicide has on neighborhoods and cities makes pursuance of gun control worthwhile for those people who are not compelled by the millions of lives lost every year nationwide.