On Oct. 25, a heavily armed man swept through two Lewiston businesses and in a matter of minutes, killed 18 people, physically injured more than 13 and forever scarred the people of Maine.

As I watch the fallout from Robert Card’s massacre in Lewiston, I am struck by how much we pay in this country for largely unfettered access to firearms. Because we place such a high value on the ability to walk into a gun shop and purchase a weapon (or weapons) with very minimal screening and no training requirements, we, as a society, have to bear a heavy burden.

The first of these, of course, is the incalculable cost of the loss of human life. We can’t put a number on that – only the families and friends of the 18 killed know how much the loss of their loved ones means to them. But we, as a society, share that loss. These are people who will no longer be able to contribute to our society, enrich our lives, make us laugh, contribute to our overall well-being as a society. They are gone, destroyed.

But if you are willing to accept these deaths as a necessary sacrifice to ensure easy access to guns, then let’s look at some of the very real and measurable expenses generated by Mr. Card’s rampage.

There is the economic loss of earnings from those who were killed.  How many hundreds of thousands – more likely millions – of dollars will never be earned by the victims of this tragedy? How will their families live without the income these people would have generated?

How many hundreds of thousands of dollars did businesses lose during the lockdown that followed the shooting? Many businesses throughout the state shut down for several days until Card’s body was finally located and the situation declared safe for people to leave their homes.


Ironically, the only business that benefited by this event was the gun trade. Local gun shops were flooded with buyers seeking weapons and ammunition following the shooting.

Also there are enormous medical costs for the survivors who were injured and, likely, for the families of the victims who were killed. There are multiple GoFundMe projects under way to help pay these bills. Gov. Janet Mills has called for state funding to help victims and former Gov. Paul LePage has started a victims’ fund. Millions of dollars have been donated to the survivors.

Despite this outpouring of generosity, many bills will likely go unpaid, leaving Lewiston’s hospital system to bear the cost, one that will, ultimately, be passed along to users of the health care system in the form of higher costs.

There is the cost of the massive public safety operation launched when Card began shooting. Hundreds of first responders, police and rescue personnel were mobilized on the day of the attack and in the days following to search for Card. And then there is the new commission formed by Gov. Mills to investigate the shooting and the public safety response.

And where is the money coming from? It’s coming from us, in the form of higher taxes (to pay for public safety resources), higher insurance rates (to cover losses), higher prices (to make up for lost business).

How many millions of dollars are we talking about here? This is money that could have been used to educate children, help the elderly, sick and poor, grow a community, build businesses, make society better, safer, more secure for all of us. Instead it will be used to try and patch up the damage.


These are only the damages that can be calculated in financial terms relating to this specific event. It doesn’t include the cost of everything else we have incorporated into our lives in order to cope with this threat. Active shooter drills in schools and businesses take up time that should be used for education and commerce. Police departments must train for these scenarios. Hospitals must be prepared to treat large numbers of gunshot victims. All of this takes up valuable time and resources.

All of this erodes our sense of community and security.

The massacre in Lewiston was not an isolated incident. It is one that is happening all too frequently and one that is costing us a considerable amount. This year there have been nearly two mass shootings per day, on average, according to the Gun Violence Archive. No matter how much we study what happened in Lewiston, no matter how many fingers we point and whom we blame, as long as powerful, deadly weapons can be easily purchased and carried with minimal controls, we know this will happen again and again.

Is easy access to deadly weapons really worth the cost?

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