LETTER TO THE EDITOR: New Virginia gun law will boost violence, costs

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By lifting the gun purchase limit, the state of Virginia can expect to see a lifting of its violence limits as well (“Va. Senate votes to repeal one-gun-a-month law,” Web, Feb. 6).

Virginia already has one of the highest rates of availability of small arms, ranking 36th out of 50, with 50 as the highest. It also has high rates of homicide (ranked 26th), high rates of incarceration (ranked 39th), and high rates of police per capita (ranked 23rd).

In our rankings on the U.S. Peace Index, we look at five indicators of violence: homicide, violent crime, incarceration rates, police per capita and availability of small arms. Virginia ranked 25th on the 2011 U.S. Peace Index, a ranking that is likely to worsen given the latest news coming out of Richmond.

The trend heralds bad news for tight budgets overseen by Gov. Bob McDonnell. Nearly unlimited availability of handguns will lead to increases in violence, which will continue to cost state coffers.

Virginia’s high rates of violence are already costing almost $9.7 billion. Mr. McDonnell should keep in mind that homicides are a drain on his state’s limited revenue, not only in medical costs but also in lost economic productivity ($1.3 million per homicide). Incarceration also costs money. Few states know this better than Virginia, which locks up many of its prisoners in expensive solitary confinement, costing the state’s taxpayers an average of $30,000 per prisoner per year.

If the governor wants to boost Virginia budgets, he should cut costs by containing violence. The way to do this is to lower Virginia’s scores on the five indicators previously mentioned. The new law to remove a limit on handgun access, however, does just the opposite.

MICHAEL SHANK

U.S. Vice President

Institute for Economics and Peace

Washington

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