Video: Gun control in SC — Voices from both sides
South Carolina has the 12th highest death rate in the country due to gun violence — and it’s costing the state’s taxpayers more than $293 million a year.
This is according to a new report prepared by the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a national policy organization that advocates for stricter gun control measures.
The findings of the report, shared first with McClatchy, are sobering. In studies of statistics provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, South Carolina had an annual average of 309 gun-related homicides, 495 gun-related suicides and “thousands” of nonfatal shootings from 2010 to 2014. The Giffords Law Center found that between 2014 and 2017, gun homicides across the state increased by more than 25 percent.
Including the cost to S.C. taxpayers, the overall annual cost of gun violence in South Carolina is $1.5 billion, or roughly $915 per person — the 10th highest per-person cost of gun violence in the United States, according to the authors of the report.
“People don’t think about gun violence in a way that would impact them on a day-to-day basis, unless, of course, they are more involved or someone who has been a victim,” said Robin Lloyd, managing director of Giffords, the larger advocacy group that houses the Giffords Law Center.
Lloyd said that the new, state-specific report was designed to “make sure that people understand that, while they may not feel the gun violence that’s occurring in South Carolina on a day-to-day basis, there’s this other cost affiliated with it.” She said she hopes the report will “really start a conversation about what can be done.”
In the two-page report, the organization makes three suggestions for possible legislative responses: Requiring background checks for all firearm purchases, implementing “evidence-based violence intervention strategies” to combat street violence and allowing courts to temporarily revoke guns from people who present threats to themselves or others.
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is currently working on legislation that would give grants to states that pass laws allowing judges to grant “extreme risk protection orders.” But the chances the Republican-controlled South Carolina Legislature will consider such a measure — or any measure to restrict gun access — are slim, especially when an organization with an agenda is making the recommendations.
In reviewing some of the Giffords Law Center’s main findings, Brian Symmes, spokesman for S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster, indicated there would not be decisive action as a result of the study.
“The best way to curb violence of any kind is to continue to invest in the men and women of our law enforcement community who put their lives on the line every day to protect us,” Symmes said in a statement. “That’s why Gov. McMaster has advocated for a trained law enforcement officer in every school, along with making a mental health counselor available to every student in the state.”
To calculate the economic cost of gun violence in South Carolina, the Giffords Law Center relied on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It then ran these numbers through an economic model developed in 2012 by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation. This model was created for the purposes of quantifying the cost of gun violence nationally, and has been used by CDC studies in the past.
The Giffords Law Center found the following annual price tags for episodes of gun violence in the state, totaling $1.5 billion a year:
- $1.3 billion in lost income “a gunshot victim or incarcerated perpetrator could have earned had they not been killed, forced to stop working because of a serious injury or incarcerated.”
- $120 million in law enforcement and criminal justice expenses “related to covering for employees who are unable to work, temporarily or permanently, due to serious injury or death.”
- $74 million in healthcare costs related to gun violence.
- $9 million in cost to employers.
The Giffords Law Center determined gun violence is costing state taxpayers $293 million because law enforcement efforts are financed by public money, and up to 85% of gunshot victims nationally are either uninsured or on publicly-funded health plans.
According to the report, the overall cost of gun violence in South Carolina rises to $4.3 billion when factoring in $2.8 billion associated with “an estimate of the financial value of pain, suffering and fear that accompany a death or injury.” The Giffords Law Center arrived at this figure by applying state-specific data to the Pacific Institute model’s conclusion that a life is worth $6.2 million, a “violence-specific average based on the amounts awarded by juries in wrongful injury and death cases.”
The Giffords Law Center was formed in 2016 with the merging of two distinct groups with similar missions: The Legal Community against Gun Violence, established in 1993, and Americans for Responsible Solutions, established in 2013 by ex-U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, an Arizona Democrat who nearly died from a gunshot to the head in 2011. In 2017, they rebranded under the name “Giffords,” with the Law Center serving as the policy wing of the larger advocacy organization.
In February, Giffords — the political wing — hosted a forum in Charleston, S.C., to call for an expanded federal background check waiting period between purchasing a gun and being allowed to take it home. Advocates say this might have prevented Dylann Roof from obtaining the firearm he used to kill nine black parishioners at Mother Emanuel AME Church on June 17, 2015.
Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to reflect an interview with Robin Lloyd, the managing director of Giffords. It has also been updated to clarify the organization that held a forum in Charleston.