Trauma care in America today is better than ever…and probably also more expensive than ever. Those who would ban civilian use of firearms like to take figures on gunshot victims, multiply by
cost of treatment, and claim that we gun owners are somehow responsible for billions of
dollars in medical care for victims of criminals and gang wars.

Now comes Dan Zimmerman from over at TTAG with an opposing view. Please read it here.
… and tell me what you think. I was never an economics major nor a statistician, and a lot of
you are better at analyzing this sort of thing than I am. I’d like to hear your opinions. And
congratulations to Dan Zimmerman for taking this novel look at things ͞from our perspective.͟


  1. The AJPH study being referenced (costing $22 per 24-hour reading; I’ll stick with abstract & Motherboard’s interpretation) does what it can to present the numbers in a terrifying manner. Bottom line: their numbers come out to healthcare costs of $6,400 per casualty (murder & suicide included).

    Bruce Krafft (via Dan Zimmerman) retorts that a human life is valued (by government study) at $6,500,000 … and that defensive gun use (which does not necessarily include actual harm) saves some 300,000 _lives_, not to mention the million or so other non-murder casualties. Long story short, that saves about $1,000,000,000,000 ($1T) per year just in value of lives wrongfully murdered, and I’ll add that the remaining casualties avoided is a savings of an economy-shattering $10,000,000,000,000 ($10T).

    Dan’s point is that even if you give Motherboard the benefit of the doubt to the tune of orders of magnitude, defensive gun use _still_ saves money by harm prevented wildly exceeding actual costs incurred.

  2. I had always wondered if someone had calculated the “savings” from DGU in dollars. Thank you, Dan Zimmerman!
    Of course, the “savings” reaped by having a person with us rather than lost is immeasurable. The value to their friends and family is, as well, incalculable.

  3. For a Cost/Benefit analysis (or any other type of statistical analysis – for that matter) to have any value, two conditions must be met:

    1) The analysis must be fair and unbiased. It is very easy, with any type of statistical calculation, to skew the figures in one direction or another. This can be done by cherry-picking the data, cherry-picking the time interval of the study, by selectively ignoring certain areas while placing enhanced emphasis on others, etc., etc., etc. It is so easy to “massage” statistical calculations that it has given rise to two popular proverbs about statistics:

    “There are lies, damned lies and then there are statistics.”

    “Figures don’t lie but liars figure.”

    The only barrier against statistical fraud is to have the research done by someone with no stake in the outcome and who is absolutely devoted to integrity.

    2) The data upon which the statistics depend must be complete and quantifiable. There must not be significant unknown variables or effects.
    I have come to believe that, when it comes to the gun control debate, neither of the above pre-conditions can be met. It is almost impossible to find an unbiased researcher since both the pro-gun and anti-gun sides bring such strong biases into the mix. I have yet to see a researcher who has the kind of integrity needed to do a fair analysis on this topic although (of course) some are much better than others. In particular, I have noticed that the anti-gun researchers are shameless when it comes to fraudulently manipulating their data.

    In addition, there are so many unknown variables associated with the use of firearms that it is impossible to quantify them all. Let me give you an example:

    Suppose two members of rival gangs “shoot it out”. Both are wounded and go to the hospital. One is injured so badly that, after a long hospital stay, he spends the rest of his life in a wheelchair and on public welfare. The other one stands trial (after his hospital stay), is found guilty of attempted murder (among other crimes) and spends several years in prison.

    An anti-gun researcher would tally up all the hospital bills, welfare costs, and prison-housing costs and put it all down as a negative cost arising from “Gun Violence”. He would set the benefit at Zero ($ 0.00) dollars.

    However, as was noted in Sharpshooter’s Frederick Bastiat reference, these are only the seen effects. There is also the fact that this incident took two violent criminals off the street. It put one in a wheelchair for life and sent the other to a long stay in prison. Who knows how many other people they would have robbed, beaten, raped and murdered if they had continued to be on the street all those years? It might well be that getting them off the street was worth the “Gun Violence” tally ten times over! We will never know for sure because it is unknowable.

    Therefore, I have concluded that it is really a waste of time and effort to try to apply statistics to the Gun Control issue. It is impossible to get unbiased researchers and impossible to fully quantify all the costs and effects. All we end up with is biased “guesses” made by a bunch of “so called” experts!

    In addition, none of these statistical studies really change minds. The pro-gun / anti-gun debate arises from the leftwing / rightwing divergent split in politics which (and I am on VERY FIRM ground here as will be confirmed by viewing just about any mainstream media “news” program) is independent of logic, reason and commonsense.

    In my view, the only way to address the gun control debate is as a matter of human rights. It cannot be solved by anyone’s calculation of cost versus benefit.

  4. Thanks Mas, now my brain hurts. Forget the math. Here’s how it is, the bad guys do bad things with guns so the good guys must be blamed. The bad guys shoot up and kill bad guys and good guys and the good guys must bear the cost.Not fair, but that’s how it is. Math is for bean counters, I’d rather count 10s and Xs and the occasional flyer.

  5. Anti-gun “studies” are invariably flawed in fundamental ways when you actually drill down into methodologies and numbers, they invariably fall down a sinkhole that in NO other area of research would be allowed.

  6. As a pharmacist and having worked in a regional poison center, I have known the unseen costs (not always unseen by everyone!). The burden on society of mental health includes the repeat suicide attempts that weigh heavily on medical as well as the impact on medical staff, family, friends and even strangers. All that in addition to the individual’s suffering and often wasted life.

    I agree with TN_MAN. The variables are far too many to even identify much less quantify realistically. However, I do think it is clear that it is not realistic to think guns have a net negative impact financially.

    And self defense is a natural right regardless.

    Thanks for the link Sharpshooter. New to me and appreciated.

    Funny as it may seem, I think of firearms as
    part vaccine (non-discharge use of firearms thwarting crime And training that includes other concepts such as awareness and other skills: prevention) and
    part antibiotic (the bullet, if and only if needed, to stop the threat in progress).

  7. Zimmerman cites Kraft’s estimates as follows: 1.88M DGUs/year, and a DGU “on average” averts 0.5 murders. Therefore in the complete absence of DGUs there would be 940,000 murders/year. That’s not reasonable. Most Americans don’t have guns or benefit directly from DGUs, so the reduction by DGUs can’t possibly be the 98% required to produce the actual 15,000 or so homicides per year.

    Kraft cites the Kleck-Gertz claim that over 15% of DGU reporters think they saved a life is dubious. They may think so, but 15% of 1.88M DGUs would be 282,000. Are there really that many attempted murders, or intended murders, every year?

    There are excellent reasons for having an armed citizenry, but this calculation is not one.

    A more accurate calculation would include the robberies and assaults deterred by DGUs, both directly and indirectly – a vast number, each one with considerable dollar value. Much less than the postulated-for-discussion “value” of a human life, but also much more numerous.

    I’m morally certain that calculation would show a benefit far greater than the cost of such crimes as are committed with guns, or made possible by guns.

  8. America is so divided at this point that arguing with liberals is probably pointless. If I had to make a case for gun ownership, I would probably tell a person to read about The Stanleyville Massacre, which lasted 111 days in 1964, in the African country of Congo. Chillingly horrible, even Catholic nuns were killed. Most liberals would probably concede that Africa is a dangerous place, and that a good argument can be had for having guns close-at-hand there. Then again, I am afraid the liberal would point to the fact that the men who saved the day were soldiers, not civilians. The liberal would probably say that in America we are protected by the police, so we don’t need civilian ownership of guns here. They would maybe point out that America is less dangerous than Africa, and has more rule of law.

    Nevertheless, when people do change their beliefs, they normally go through a process that takes some time. With a person like that, these arguments from numbers, and even from emotion, probably do some good. Transitioning from a sheep to a sheepdog takes time. Logical arguments, sound reasoning, and historical accounts could certainly help a person make that transition. But many will simply remain as sheep, and not make the transition. Its easy to stay with the flock. Besides, thinking about criminal acts is bound to make grass eaters uncomfortable. I remember being upset by the descriptions of wounds in war stories myself. It takes a long time to get used to that, and I am just a person who reads about such things. I don’t experience them.

  9. It is off topic but a story is breaking about a self-defense case in OK. See this link:–abc-news-topstories.html

    The story claims this is a “stand your ground” case but, instead, it appears to be a self-defense case based upon the “”Castle Doctrine”. It reminds me of how the press decried “stand your ground” in the Zimmerman case when, in fact, that was plain old self-defense.

    All this raises a question. Are the members of the liberal press really this dumb? Are they truly unable to tell salami from sardines? Are they so ignorant of the self-defense laws that any case of self-defense (of any type) becomes a case of “stand your ground” in their minds?

    Or, are they deliberately confounding “stand your ground” with other types of self-defense in order to confuse the public and push their anti-gun / anti-self-defense agenda?

    Mas, you are much more knowledgeable about these matters than I. Based upon your experience, do you think this kind of press reporting is a deliberate ploy or is the liberal press really this stupid?

    I am having trouble believing that even the left-wing press is this ignorant.

  10. Lots of assumptions here but they are reasonable ones. In fact,Zimmerman even deliberately stacked the deck against our side and we still won on the numbers. Most notably by going 10x on the Motherboard numbers. He is correct that to do cost benefit analysis, one must consider both. I would add that suicides should be excluded from any such analysis unless it is about suicide prevention. Further, any fatalities or woundings should be excluded if they are related to defensive gun use either by police or armed citizens or if they are related to internecine conflict among criminals. Do these things and you get a much stronger ratio than Zimmerman comes up with.

    The entire public health establishment is corrupt on this topic and should be completely disregarded. The main center for such studies is Johns Hopkins University at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. I think that is what you LE guys call a clue.

    As other posters have noted, it is pointless to argue with leftists but we need to fortify ourselves to be able to reach the uncommitted.

  11. I would like to point out that the claim that medical cost justifies the passage of laws is not a new liberal tactic and has been in use since Ronald Reagan was governor of CA. The congress passed a blackmail bill requiring all states pass a law mandate motorcycle helmets or loose federal highway funds. Gov. Reagan was the only one to stand up to the Feds and he won. In the yrs after the Feds kept up the pressure using such fatally flawed studies on medical cost from Harborview med center in Seattle. Despite the debunked study only proving that motorists had a higher percentage of insurance than the general public it was used as justification to mandate what you had to wear during sex… um riding. The same prove the conclusion studies will be used against gun ownership regardless of the facts uncovered if the study is even done scientifically. The helmet mandate? Repealed as blackmail and 27 states eliminated the helmet law for adults.

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