Saint Lucia is battling a gun epidemic that is just as deadly as the coronavirus and which can cause more grief to families and communities than the virus itself, due to the effects one bullet can have on not only the life it was intended to end but on multiple lives associated and related to that life. While someone can recover fully from the coronavirus, the effects of a bullet are designed to be final and, even though it does not achieve its end, recovery from its effects is frequently never achieved.
As Saint Lucia struggles to control gun violence within its borders, this particular slice from the crime cake could put a stranglehold on the nation’s economic growth if it is not dealt with swiftly and assertively.
This call for swift and assertive action to the nation’s firearm-related problems should come as no surprise as gun violence, if left unchecked, comes with an enormous bill in human lives and in dollars and cents that Saint Lucia, very soon, will be unable to shoulder.
Saint Lucia this year has already recorded homicides, with numbers in the mid-20s, compliments in large part to gun violence. Numbers such as this come with a bill, a country such as ours, cannot afford to bear.
The economic costs related to gun violence in Saint Lucia is not something the authorities share with the public. Our editorial team did some research and found out that in an average year, gun violence in America costs that country hundreds of billions of dollars.
This piece of information is not to compare Saint Lucia and the United States on the matter of gun violence, but rather to highlight a singular fact that gun violence in any given year not only claims lives but comes with a dollar cost.
For a nation of less than 200,000 that depends heavily on the tourism industry for its survival – economic or otherwise, gun violence can easily bring the industry to its knees. This is a cost Saint Lucia cannot afford either now or ever, not with the devastating blow delivered to the economy by the pandemic and the potential costs of natural disasters.
Sadly, over the past few years, the costs associated with gun violence have been growing and elected leaders are at their wit’s end in determining what to do to end the scourge.
To understand the costs attached to homicides a look must be taken at the immediate costs, starting at the time of an incident, and the subsequent costs such as treatment, long-term physical and mental health care, foregone earnings, criminal justice costs and more.
Then there is the cost estimates of quality-of-life lost over a victim’s lifespan. Survivors, families, communities, employers, taxpayers, all pay for the costs associated with this violence, whether they own a gun or not.
Based on the frequency of gun violence in the country and the horrors wrought each and every time triggers are squeezed, the costs in dollars and cents, we believe, are high beyond our affording.
Picture an average day. Picture a community. Picture the eruption of gun violence in that community. Now let’s picture the dollars and cents aspect to that incident. Monies will come out from taxpayers first for medical care, first responders, ambulance, police and other services of the criminal justice system that have to be activated. All that costs money.
According to a report published on the worldwide web on gun violence in America “families directly affected by gun violence everyday face $4.7 million in out-of-pocket costs for medical bills and mental health support, and $140.3 million in losses from work missed due to injury or death.
“Society loses an estimated $586.8 million per day in intangible costs from the pain and suffering of gun violence victims and their families and employers every day lose $1.4 million in productivity, revenue, and costs required to recruit and train replacements for victims of gun violence.”
In Saint Lucia, while it is clear that we are not faced with such large amounts, we still go through, proportionately, the same losses as expressed above with monies still having to be spent. Monies that not only can the country ill afford but which could and should be put towards the betterment of the quality of life of our citizens.