Gun violence took the lives of nearly 1,500 Santa Clara County residents between 2001 and 2020, costing Santa Clara County $72 million annually, according to an interim report released Tuesday.
The report comes after the Tuesday school shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas. As of Wednesday, a gunman’s rampage has killed 19 children and two teachers. The latest shooting has ignited a wave of outrage across the country, re-energizing calls for government action to prevent the gun violence epidemic.
But this report has been years in the making — Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez requested the report in 2019 after the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting that killed three people, though the report was delayed by the pandemic. The $72 million figure includes costs at the county and city level for police, emergency services, medical, mental health, emergency services and criminal justice. It does not account for the costs of incarceration in state and federal prisons. The healthcare system, criminal justice system and other public sectors bear the majority of this monetary impact.
“Columbine, Sandy Hook, Marjorie Stoneman Douglas and now Robb,” Chavez said. “We keep adding school names to the list of mass shooting sites. We keep burying kids and leaving families consumed by grief. And we can’t say, ‘But it won’t happen here,’ because it did.”
The most common causes for the 1,494 firearm deaths over the past two decades were self-inflicted injuries such as suicide, followed by assault/homicide and legal intervention.
The report recommends a series of policy actions, including the adoption of gun-safety policies for gun owners, community-centered approaches to gun-violence prevention policies, and partnerships with health services to improve mental health care.
Santa Clara County residents owned 550,000 guns in 2021 with 28,000 guns registered annually from 2017 to 2021, according to the report.
To address the issue of “ghost guns” — privately made, untraceable firearms — the Board requested that the County Counsel prepare two ordinances to regulate the possession, manufacturing, sale and/or assembly of privately manufactured firearms.