Gun violence hits America's youth and rural states the hardest and has reached the highest levels in decades, a report released Wednesday by Democrats on Congress' Joint Economic Committee has found.
U.S. teens and young adults, ages 15-24, are 50 times more likely to die by gun violence than they are in other economically advanced countries, according to the 50-state breakdown.
In 2017 — the year of a mass shooting in Las Vegas that killed 58 and injured hundreds — nearly 40,000 people died from gun-related injuries, including 2,500 school children, the report said, noting that six in 10 gun deaths in the U.S. are suicides.
That year marked the first time firearms killed more people than motor vehicle accidents, the report said.
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Rural states, meanwhile, have the highest rates of gun deaths and bear the largest costs as a share of their economies. Nationally, the cost of gun violence in the U.S. runs $229 billion a year, or 1.4 percent of the gross domestic product, the report said.
“The human cost is beyond our ability to comprehend, it is tragic, it is sickening, and it is a crisis,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., the vice-chair of the committee, said in a news conference Wednesday. “The gun violence needs to stop and we need to make it happen.”
There is also a substantial economic cost, the report said, with directly measurable costs that include "lost income and spending, employer costs, police and criminal justice responses and health care treatment" and indirect costs that include "reduced quality of life due to pain and suffering."
"Gun homicides are also associated with fewer jobs, lost businesses and lower home values in local economies and communities across the nation," the report said.
The report noted, however, that the economic toll of gun violence is difficult to measure because of a decades-old federal prohibition on funding for research into the problem. Since 1996, Congress has added a little-known amendment to spending legislation that prohibits the use federal funds to advocate or promote gun control. While lawmakers clarified the provision in a spending package last year, stating that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can conduct research on the causes of gun violence, no money was allocated for such research.
In the wake of multiple mass shootings this year, gun control advocates and a growing number of Democrats have been calling on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to take up legislation to combat the problem.
Congress remains at an impasse over gun-control legislation — in part because President Donald Trump has not yet made clear what measures he would be willing to back. McConnell said Tuesday that he is awaiting “guidance from the White House” about what the president, who previously expressed some interest in expanding gun background checks, is “comfortable signing.” While a bipartisan background check bill passed the Democrat-controlled House in February, Trump has threatened to veto it.
The joint congressional committee’s report, largely complied with data from the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, urged immediate action.
There have been 301 mass shootings in America in 2019 so far, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit that tracks gun-related deaths and injuries based on official records.
The committee report found that Alaska, Montana, Alabama, Louisiana and Missouri have the highest rate of gun deaths, with an economic cost of roughly $17.5 billion. However, suicides make up the majority of firearm-related deaths, about 60 percent, the report said, and suicides by young Americans have trended upward over the last decade.
The report found that states with high rates of gun ownership — Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Montana, West Virginia and Wyoming — have the highest rates of gun suicide. And for every 10 percent increase in household gun ownership, the youth suicide rate increases by more than 25 percent, it found.
It also found economically deprived areas outside of rural America are also hit hard. About 7,500 African Americans die from gun violence every year, the report said — making it 20 times more likely that a young black male will die by a firearm homicide than a white peer.
The committee held a hearing on the report Wednesday afternoon.