Society Pays Huge Costs For Wounded Gunshot Victims


Antoine Rosenbaum, 25, of Philadelphia, shot in the back by a stranger and paralyzed from the chest down, must be cared for by his wife, Sophorina, 21. The Associated Press reports that

Sophorina gets $8.50 an hour as his full-time caregiver and also works part-time in a fast-food restaurant; he gets disability benefits and is eligible for government programs that will pay for schooling and help him find a job. Homicides are a major yardstick for measuring urban crime, but far more numerous are cases in which people are shot and wounded. “We like to think gun violence is someone else’s problem, but it’s everyone’s problem,” says Philip Cook, a Duke University economist and co-author of widely cited studies about the cost of gun violence.

A report in the journal Spinal Cord a decade ago estimated the direct lifetime charges for every shooting victim at $600,000, or nearly $800,000 in today’s dollars. In a 1999 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Cook and colleagues concluded that gunshot injuries in the U.S. in 1994 produced $2.3 billion in lifetime medical costs. Taxpayers paid half of that through Medicaid, Medicare, workers’ compensation and other programs. In the 2000 book “Gun Violence: The Real Costs,” Cook and Jens Ludwig estimated that gun violence costs the nation $100 billion a year, with medical costs only a small part of that. In Philadelphia, Rosenbaum might have been among the lost if not for a pilot program that seeks to give young gunshot victims a chance at a meaningful life.


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