Gun incidents cost Santa Clara County $72 million each year | New
Most people are aware of the human toll of gun violence, but a new report in Santa Clara County reveals its staggering financial cost.
Firearm incidents cost the county $72 million each year, according to a county report. This estimate covers the costs of public sector responses to gun violence, including health care and policing, and does not cover incarceration. The report also claims that Santa Clara County had about 550,000 guns in 2021, or about one gun for every four residents.
At a gun buy-back event in Milpitas on May 22 hosted by Supervisor Otto Lee, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office and the Milpitas Police Department, residents turned in 415 guns, according to a Lee’s press release. It was the first county buyout event since before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over the past two decades, 1,494 county residents have died from gun-related injuries, with the most common cause being suicide. The report shows that Latino residents are disproportionately affected by gun violence – more than half of all non-fatal firearm injuries reported to emergency rooms between 2016 and 2020 were among Latinos, who make up just 25% of the county population.
The oversight board, which commissioned a report on the cost of gun violence in January 2020, will receive the report at its meeting on Tuesday. The council will also likely ask the county’s legal representative to draft an ordinance banning phantom weapons – an action delayed from March. Ghost guns are non-serialized firearms that can be assembled from parts or via 3D printers, making them difficult to trace.
Supervisor Cindy Chavez, who has expressed concern about the growing number of phantom guns found at crime scenes, said at a May 23 news conference that the county has decided to look at the cost of gun violence after the 2019 shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. She said the report provides the county with an opportunity to evaluate strategies to address gun violence.
“There are communities across the country that have used different types of strategies to reduce gun violence,” Chavez said. “We have many opportunities to consider that are not all necessarily very expensive for us to solve this problem.”
The county plans to tighten gun control measures ahead of the first birthday of the mass shooting in the VTA light rail yard. The attack prompted San Jose officials to crack down on gun violence, including passing the nation’s first liability insurance mandate for gun owners. Municipal authorities also recently passed a local ordinance that prohibits the possession, manufacture, sale, assembly, receipt or distribution of ghost weapons.
Assistant District Attorney James Gibbons-Shapiro said the shootings have impacts on communities across the county that go beyond dollars.
“The cost of these shootings is (a) small dollar portion,” Gibbons-Shapiro said. “But much more than that is the cost to the families of the dead, the people who were shot and the cost to the people living in the neighborhoods and on the streets; the cost in trauma, stress, fear and pain. “
Several California cities, including San Francisco and San Diego, have recently passed laws banning guns without serial numbers. A city memo noted that ghost guns are appearing with increasing frequency at crime scenes, and in Santa Clara County, the number of guns without serial numbers found at crime scenes has increased from four in 2015 to 293 in 2021.
Margaret Petros, executive director of Mothers Against Murder, a nonprofit that helps victims of violent crime, said she was stunned by the financial cost of gun violence in Santa Clara County.
“$72 million is shocking to me,” Petros told San Jose Spotlight. She noted that the financial burden of gun violence can be traumatic for families, citing as an example the exorbitant cost of planning a funeral, which can cost around $25,000.
Petros doubts that banning ghost weapons will have an impact on criminal violence, noting that people can still hurt themselves with knives or other weapons. She said it would make more sense for the county to invest in resources to help victims of crimes that would end the cycle of violence.
“The system needs to start caring about individuals,” Petros said. “If we start educating children at a very young age about the pain (of crime)… that’s when we’ll prevent crime and gun violence.”
Jose Valle, an organizer with community advocacy group Silicon Valley De-Bug, said he could not comment on the potential public safety impact of the ghost gun ordinance. But he noted the county should invest more in addressing the root causes of crime.
“The majority of crimes in Santa Clara County are not committed by inherently criminal or inherently malicious people,” Valle told San Jose Spotlight. “A lot of it stems from inequality and poverty – that’s what needs to be discussed and confronted.”
The Supervisory Board meets on Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. Find out how to watch and participate in sanjosespotlight.com.
This story, from Bay City News Service, originally appeared on Spotlight on San Jose.