Mass shootings are tragedies with immeasurable human costs to victims and their families. As most of you are aware, my adopted hometown of Odessa was recently the site of such a tragedy.

The nature of the shooting, being both random and widespread, leads to most of us knowing victims or otherwise having personal connections to the event. Lives were lost, injuries were suffered, families were permanently altered, and the character of a rugged community accustomed to resilience in one area is facing a test of a different and far more difficult kind. The focus is and always should be on the families and the victims.

In order to bring a different type of awareness to the issue, however, I decided to quantify some of the associated economic harms from mass shootings. My hope is that shinning a different light on the situation will motivate leaders to constructively deal with the underlying causes and implement effective solutions, even if perhaps not for the right reasons.

No one can begin to place a value on the pain and disruptions caused to innocent people just going about their daily routines. Our purpose in providing this assessment is simply to make others aware that the costs randomly imposed on these innocent people also reverberate through the economy in material ways.

We estimated economic losses to the United States associated with deaths and injuries incurred in mass shootings from December 14, 2012 (Sandy Hook) to August 31, 2019 (Odessa). Since Sandy Hook, we estimate that losses to the U.S. economy from mass shootings total more than $20.5 billion in gross product and nearly 191,000 job-years due to death and injuries to victims. In addition, the quality-of-life losses for victims and their families as traditionally measured total at least $9.5 billion. These numbers reflect the effects of medical costs and lost earnings and are fully adjusted for the age distribution, worklife probabilities, labor force participation, and productivity potential of the victims. The analysis made use of our econometric model and impact assessment system.

Even these economic harms, although substantial, do not tell the full story. They measure only the effects from the losses of the victims of mass shootings. Society suffers other substantial harms, such as enforcement, investigative, and incarceration costs. There is the diversion of resources into security measures at potentially vulnerable venues (such as schools and churches). The economic and psychological impacts on the affected communities can be profound. Increased uncertainty and many other adverse outcomes take an additional toll.

The message is clear. In addition to the much more important consequences for the victims and their families, dealing with this issue is also an economic imperative.

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above guest column shows Odessa residents remembering those killed in a mass shooting in their town recently. The photo was taken by Mitch Borden / Marfa Public Radio.