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Public Statements

Costs of Gun Violence

Location: Washington, DC

COSTS OF GUN VIOLENCE -- (House of Representatives - April 04, 2006)

Mrs. McCARTHY. Mr. Speaker, every week I stand here and talk about commonsense approaches to reducing gun violence in this country. And yet this body sees fit to chip away at existing gun laws. So tonight I want to talk about the effects of gun violence in terms that everybody in this body can understand, dollars and cents.

Throughout America, our States are experiencing extraordinary budget problems, forcing them to cut spending on many important initiatives. A great deal of these budget woes are caused by skyrocketing health care costs, and the continued cuts to Medicaid aren't going to help the situation.

Of course, Congress will not allow funding for the Centers for Disease Control to study the true economic cost of gun violence, so we have to use data from independent sources.

Independent sources have shown gun violence costs our economy over $100 billion every year. In fact, each gun death costs our economy $2.8 million. Gun violence increases law enforcement spending. Gun violence costs the economy billions in lost productivity. And while Congress won't let us learn the exact amount, gun violence costs our health care system more than $2 billion every single year.

Since gun violence plagues so many low-income communities, victims are often uninsured. And who picks up the tab for uninsured victims of gun violence? American taxpayers, that's who. So even if you don't think about gun violence as an important issue, you are paying for it.

It is obvious something must be done, and it is also obvious that this body has no plans to intervene in this public health crisis. So it is up to our local communities and neighborhoods.

Across the country people are fed up, but they are trying to make a difference in their own area. I have been to many events that have had politicians, school officials, law enforcement officers and others telling young people about the dangers of guns. But not once has anybody turned the microphone around and asked the kids what do they think.

So many young people live on the front lines of the gun violence epidemic. The rhetoric on both sides of this issue must stop, and we must start to learn to listen.

This isn't about the second amendment; this isn't about kids dying. Many of the people who disagree with my views on the gun issue will say, Guns don't kill people; people do.

But what that doesn't mean is we can't take steps to make sure guns don't fall into the hands of the wrong people. This isn't about taking away guns from law-abiding citizens who hunt or shoot skeet, nor is it about depriving law-abiding citizens from defending themselves and their families. In fact, we can save so many lives without affecting a single lawful gun owner in this country.

This is about keeping guns away from felons and gang members. This is about making sure our police departments have the tools they need to track down illegal guns. This isn't about running honest gun dealers out of business. It is about cracking down on the 1 percent of corrupt gun dealers who sell 57 percent of the guns used in crimes.

Gun rights advocates have as much stake in this as anybody else. Many see gun violence as an inner-city problem. But let's not forget that gang violence and drug crime also started out as an inner-city problem. We acted too late, and now gangs and drugs are commonplace in suburbs and rural communities.

So as we head home for the spring recess, I ask my colleagues to do something we don't do very often or very well: listen. It is time to listen to the people being affected by gun violence. Listen to our young people in under-served communities. Listen to our police departments who are losing officers to illegal guns every week. And listen to the families who have lost loved ones due to gun violence.

The answers to this epidemic of gun violence do not reside in this Chamber or on K Street, but in the hearts and minds of the people that we represent. It is time that they are heard.

The vast majority of legal gun owners understand the need to stop gun violence. We must all work together, regardless of our interpretation of the second amendment, or whether we live in an urban, suburban, or rural area.

Let us make a commitment to replace our rhetoric with action. Let us make our communities a better and safer place for all young people of all backgrounds.

Together, we can stop this public health care crisis and save lives. I came to Congress to save lives. I will not give up on this fight. We can reduce gun violence in this country. We just have to find common ground on how we are going to do that.

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