An average of 100 people a day are killed from gun violence in America, but a new, in-depth study by Everytown Research — the investigative arm of the gun control group backed by former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg — suggests that stat only begins to describe the problem.
Everytown for Gun Safety found that for every gun-related death in the U.S., another two people hit by gun violence are left injured, maimed, or incapacitated. The societal costs of those life-altering injuries are far-reaching, ranging from the victims' long-term reliance on federal health care services to their permanent exit from the tax-providing workforce.
“Trying to understand what’s really going on with this crisis in the United States is not only about the fatalities, but it's also about the tens of thousands of people who are wounded every year,” Sarah Burd-Sharps, the research director for Everytown, told VICE News. “They're wounded, which has a lasting trauma on their life, but it also has a lasting trauma on their families and their communities.”
The study finds that while more than 36,000 people are killed annually by firearms in America, more than 73,000 are injured each year. That 2-1 ratio hasn't gotten factored into federal policy-making, in part because no federal agency is reliably doing the counting.
Everytown gathered its data from 30 million discharge records from 950 hospitals and emergency rooms over three years. Among its findings:
- An average of 200 people in America sustain gun injuries every day
- One in six gun injuries involve children or teens
- 20-to-24-year-olds are the age group most susceptible to gun violence
- Every 40 minutes, a child or a teen is hit by a bullet
Their research also counters the notion that gun violence is an inner-city problem. They show that there are similar nonfatal injuries in rural and urban communities alike, even as they found that half of the bullet and shrapnel wounds in the three-year period they studied occurred in the South.
The reason the federal government continues to fly blind when it comes to the true costs of gun violence is a 1996 law with the so-called Dickey Amendment tacked onto it. For decades, that amendment was thought to prohibit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from researching gun violence, even though it merely states that the federal government can’t “advocate or promote gun control.”
That provision instilled fear in CDC officials that they might face penalties for doing such research, so in 2018 Congress clarified the narrow scope of the law.
The Everytown study quantifies how the CDC’s current research is woefully inadequate. While the CDC did release data on nonfatal gun injuries for 2015, 2016, and 2017, its data came from a survey of just 2% of U.S. hospitals, which experts considered inadequate. Everytown widened the research to 16 times more institutions.
“You miss one trauma hospital in a major city and you've missed, you know, the bulk of gunshot wounds,” Burd-Sharps told VICE News.
The CDC did not respond to a request for comment.
Burd-Sharps’ research team was forced to purchase government data so they could more fully mine the statistics contained in the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample, the obscure government entity that’s currently the best repository for gun-violence information.
“In the absence of the funding for the CDC, we need this data,” Burd-Sharps said. “We need to know where the injuries are — and how often and who it is — so that we can start to develop some more custom and more focused solutions.”
Earlier this year, the newly Democrat-controlled Congress signaled to the CDC that they’ve been misreading the 1996 law and allocated $50 million for gun-violence research. That bill has sat untouched in Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s Senate since then.
“The Senate's inaction comes with a body count. And it's really important that this report shows really how severe America’s crisis is,” Shannon Watts, the founder of gun-violence prevention group Moms Demand Action, told VICE News. “It's important that when we're looking at this crisis, we're looking at it holistically, and we're not just talking about gun deaths but also gun injuries.”
Over three months, a team of roughly four people at Everytown thumbed through “roughly 30 million hospital discharge records each year,” according to the report.
After scrutinizing the data, they found guns don’t just kill; they also permanently disrupt and upend the lives of those Americans who survive shootings. But even top researchers with Everytown argue this is a topic best tackled by the government.
“We desperately need more funding – the federal government has an incredibly important role to play in understanding what’s happening with this crisis in this country,” Burd-Sharps said. “They have the skills to do it; they don't have the funding to be able to do it.”
Everytown Research was formed in 2006 after Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America merged with Mayors Against Illegal Guns. But the report was in the works before Bloomberg started flirting with a long-shot presidential bid.
For gun-control advocates like the founder of Moms Demand Action, Shannon Watts, the problem is evident, as they feel tasked with unwinding the misinformation spread by the NRA and other pro-gun groups. Work that they’re trying to undo after years of it proving effective, like when the gun lobby scared the CDC into halting studies on gun violence since 1996. But newly emboldened gun-control groups are vowing to show the American people the true extent of loose American gun laws.
“The reason they did that was because they don't want us to know the extent of our problem or how to solve it,” Watts said. “It behooves the special interests for gun violence to continue unabated, because the more we know, the more that we would probably take steps to address that, through laws. And for a long time, the gun lobby has opposed any new laws regardless of whether they’re lifesaving.”
Cover: Visitors look at items well-wishers have left behind along the fence at the Tree of Life Synagogue on the 1st Anniversary of the attack on October 27, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)