2015 Explanatory Reporting, Medium Newsroom winner

What Does Gun Violence Really Cost?


Mark Follman, Julia Lurie, Jaeah Lee, James West

Mother Jones

Explanatory Reporting, Medium Newsroom


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About the Project

From air pollution to traffic deaths, researchers have assessed the economic toll of many of our society’s key problems. Yet where is all the data on the cost of gun violence in America? Powerful advocacy groups like the NRA have successfully lobbied to shut down research on firearms and gun injuries and deaths, leaving us with little information about the impact of gun violence on our economy, and on public health.

With government and academic researchers stymied, Mother Jones—in collaboration with economist Ted Miller of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation—took on the task of developing an assessment of the cost of gun violence. Senior editor Mark Follman, along with reporters Jaeah Lee and Julia Lurie, spent six months working with Miller to analyze an array of factors, from police and emergency response costs to long-term health care and lost productivity. The shocking price tag shows that gun violence is not only a public health crisis—it is a profound detriment to America’s economy.

In all, their analysis and reporting found (using the low-end estimate for a variety of factors) that gun violence costs the nation at least $229 billion a year, or more than $700 for every American. The average cost of a single gun murder reaches nearly a half million dollars, 87 percent of which falls on taxpayers. And we pay for 32 gun homicides every single day.

Mother Jones’ digital producers and designers created a rich array of storytelling elements to complement the narrative, including videos profiling victims and visualizing the numbers, dramatic charts, and data visualizations. This groundbreaking package maximizes digital tools to draw in and engage readers in a sweeping assessment of the toll of violence on survivors and families, documenting the steep costs both personal and financial—costs that continue for many decades, increasing the staggering toll on the nation as a whole.