Violence caused by firearms among children and adolescents is a serious public health problem in the United States, with well-defined socio-political contours, but the financial expenditure of which had not yet been widely explored in the country.
Researchers at Stanford University changed the landscape on June 23 with the publication of the first study containing detailed national data on the subject.
The survey shows that, on average, Americans spend US $ 109 million (BRL 550 million) per year on hospitalization of people under the age of 18 with gunshot wounds – 57% of that amount being taken into account. charge by the federal government, via Medicaid. , a program aimed at the low-income population.
This is because the majority of the victims are black (55%) and poor (53%) young people, which crystallizes America’s systemic inequalities and adds a new element to the battle between Democrats and Republicans, who disagree. on public policies to fight crime and expand gun control. legislation in the country.
The rise in gun violence in the United States this year has brought election threats to President Joe Biden’s party, which is trying to act to contain possible harm to Democrats in the 2022 legislative dispute, for example.
Today, the acronym controls the House and Senate with a slim majority, and if he loses that advantage next year, advancing the president’s agenda in Congress becomes nearly impossible.
The study considered data from 2003, 2006, 2009 and 2012 and analyzed a total of 19,015 patients in 4,100 hospitals in 44 of 50 US states.
The average cost per hospitalization was US $ 12,984 (approximately R $ 65,000), in inflation-adjusted values, but it varies, among other things, depending on the length of hospitalization and the severity of the injuries. Among the most common causes of injury are assault (63%), accidents (26%) and self-harm (3%).
Of the total number of hospital patients, 74% were between 16 and 18 years old, 89% were men, 55% were black, and 53% were in low income – largely with government spending.
The United States does not have a single health care system and therefore hospitalizations are paid for in at least three ways: government programs, health insurance – purchased by employers for their employees or, individually, by individuals – or by the nearly 30 million Americans who have no health insurance and have to shell out huge sums of money for every appointment or emergency.
The expenses reported in the survey represent only the initial hospitalization and do not take into account social and mental health damages, such as time lost at work or at school for patients and parents, rehabilitation expenses. and the sequelae that can limit access to education and the labor market, which, according to the researchers, occurs in almost half of the cases.
The political element is reappearing amid the upsurge in violent crime in the United States. In 2020, the homicide rate in major cities increased by 30% compared to 2019. In the first quarter of this year, the increase was 24% compared to the same period last year.
Among children and adolescents, the data has become even more discouraging: the new wave of massacres in schools – there were 14 since March – has pushed the country past the 250,000 students already victims of armed violence since March. Columbine shooting, which killed fifteen people (including the two snipers) in 1999.
In view of the political impact, Biden last week announced the strengthening of surveillance of arms sales and called for more resources for the police.
The move, however, deepened historical divisions on both sides of the political spectrum – and has always displeased some activists and the left wing of his party, who advocate cuts to the police budget.
The right to bear arms is enshrined in the Constitution of the United States and is a thorny issue for Republicans, who see it as a symbol of freedom.
Democrats, for their part, believe that wide and easy access to guns is a key part of increasing crime, but not everyone agrees on less money for police. .
The movement gathered momentum last year, as did activists during protests after the death of George Floyd, a black man who was murdered by a white police officer but lacked Biden’s backing.
Parliamentarians allied with the president admit that rising crime in big cities – often party-led – and calls for cuts to police funding are the biggest electoral threats for the coming year.
Gun control and less money for the police are different agendas, but they’ll be mixed up by Republicans when they return to the rhetoric that Democrats want to weaken the police, paving the way for more crime, everything by removing Americans’ right to self-protection.