St. Paul Pioneer Press columnist Ruben Rosario uses the case of former St. Paul taxi driver Pat Burkman to illustrate the sometimes enormous cost of a shooting. Last November, Burkman was walking to his apartment when a gun-toting robber wearing a cap and a handkerchief over his face accosted him. Burkman was shot in the abdomen at point-blank range as he reached into his jacket to pull out $400 in cash. The gunman escaped empty-handed. Burkman, 53, has not been out of a health care facility since the night of the shooting.
“If someone had told me this, I would not have believed it,” Burkman said. “I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. It’s been the toughest year I’ve ever had in my life.” A national study – based on 1994 data – placed the price for that year’s 134,445 gunshot wounds in the U.S. at about $2.3 billion. That figure – half of which is paid by taxpayers – did not include mental-health treatment for victims, lost days of work and arrest, prosecution, trial, and incarceration costs in those cases where the shooting was crime-related. In the Burkman case, he was placed in a medically induced coma and initially underwent five surgeries. About 15 inches of his small intestine were removed. At the time of the shooting, Burkman had no health insurance. It took a bullet to get him state-subsidized medical care. Burkman has no idea how much in medical bills is piling up. He estimates it’s in the million-dollar range. Social Security disability is paying for a tiny fraction of it.