Bishop Greg RickelSo much has eloquently been written, here and elsewhere, about the ripple effect of gun violence and its human cost. We can intuit this reality, although we often do not make the true connection and experience the deepest sort of grief about it until it comes directly to our doorstep, into our families, into our daily lives. I write today of one direct connection to gun violence which, in one way or the other, affects directly every person in this country: the cost of health care.

In my former life I was a hospital administrator. I remember a sobering presentation by one of the leading administrators in this country, almost 25 years ago. The presentation bore an intriguing title, something like, “How we can cut health care costs in half now.” We all thought the speaker had discovered a new billing formula or something to do with staffing. His entire talk was about a few social issues, things we, as a country, are unable or unwilling to address. One was prenatal care for all women, another was drug abuse, but as I remember it, at the top of the list was violent crime, and most of those crimes involved a gun.

In fact, an American Public Health Association (APHA) study released in 2013 found the following to be true:

  • 89 percent of firearm injury patients treated in hospitals were male—and nearly half (48 percent) were African American
  • Over 60 percent of the injuries were caused by handgun “assault”
  • 22 percent of the injuries were listed as accidental
  • 8 percent were self-inflicted
  • Almost 40 percent of patients were aged 20-30

More than this, the study found that it costs over $2 billion per year in hospital charges to treat victims of firearms-related injuries.

The NRA started as a gun safety organization. It still claims that identity, but it devotes its greatest energy fighting against every gun safety law that is ever promoted, and making sure there are more guns in everyone’s hands, with no restrictions.

There is a cost to that.

The Rt. Rev. Greg Rickel

Bishop of the Diocese of Olympia