July 14, 2021

Warren, Markey, House Democrats Release New GAO Report Showing Gun Violence Costs U.S. Health Care System More Than $1 Billion Per Year

Report Shows Disproportionate Harm Gun Violence Inflicts on Black and Low-Income Americans

Click here to read the GAO report

Washington, DC — United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) joined Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), and Representative Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) and Cori Bush (D-Mo.) to release a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the public health impact of America’s gun violence epidemic and call for Congress to act to protect Americans from gun violence.

"Gun violence is an epidemic in our communities, and this new report shows the additional financial strain that firearm injuries place on families and our already overburdened health care system. Survivors of firearm injuries are faced with extraordinary costs or are denied care when treatment isn’t covered by their insurance. This is a public health crisis, and it’s long past time for Congress to pass common-sense reforms that keep our communities safe," said Senator Warren.

“Today’s GAO report not only reaffirms that gun violence is a national epidemic, but also a public health emergency that disproportionately affects Black and Brown communities,” said Senator Markey.  “These findings pave the way for Congress to take up and pass evidence-based solutions to tackle the scourge of gun violence.  We must act now.”  

“The GAO report shows that gun violence costs the U.S. healthcare system more than $1 billion dollars every year and confirms the disproportionate harm that gun violence inflicts on Black and low-income Americans,” said Congresswoman Kelly. “We are in the midst of a public health crisis and we need to pass strong federal gun violence prevention laws to curb the flow of illegal guns and put a stop to the daily killings that are currently ravaging communities.”

“As the representative for the congressional district that today leads the nation in murders following years of failed solutions rooted in criminalization and incarceration, I must make it abundantly clear:  Health-based problems demand health-based solutions,” said Congresswoman Bush.  “Gun violence is a health-based crisis.  It’s a public health crisis.  And reports like this one are proof that this crisis requires solutions rooted in care, community and public health."

“Today’s report provides shocking new evidence of how gun violence strains our health care system and disproportionately harms historically marginalized communities in the United States,” said Representative Maloney.  “Congress must do whatever it takes—including abolishing the filibuster if necessary—to address this public health crisis and keep our constituents safe from gun violence.”   

On February 4, 2020, Senator Warren, and Representatives Maloney and Kelly requested that GAO examine the total annual medical costs associated with gun violence in the United States.

Below are findings from GAO’s new report:

  • According to hospital data from 2016 and 2017, the initial hospital costs of gun violence total more than $1 billion annually.

  • Medicaid and other public health care programs shouldered more than 60% of initial gun violence-related hospital costs.

  • Up to 16% of gun violence survivors who experience inpatient hospital stays are readmitted at least once within a year of their injury.

  • Half of people hospitalized for gun violence injuries were Black, even though Black people make up only 13% of the U.S. population. 

  • More than half of gun violence patients live in zip codes with an annual median household income below $44,000.

  • Systemic health inequities for communities of color and people with low incomes—including uninsurance, underinsurance, stigma, and racism in health care settings—create barriers to care for gun violence victims.

  • Little is known about the health care costs of gun violence beyond the first year after hospital discharge for numerous reasons—including limited data collection and historical underfunding of research.