Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Virginia Tech Massacre Cost Taxpayers and Public University at Least $48.2 Million
Press Release

RELEASE: Virginia Tech Massacre Cost Taxpayers and Public University at Least $48.2 Million

New Report Estimates Monetary Costs of Killing Spree, Recommends Measures to Curb Gun Violence

Read the report.

Washington, D.C. – Today, as the families and friends of those killed at Virginia Tech University prepare to mark the five-year anniversary of the tragedy, the Center for American Progress released results from the first-ever study to estimate the monetary costs incurred as a result of the murderous rampage. While the human toll of this killing spree is incalculable, the research found that the bill to taxpayers of the United States, Virginia, and for Virginia Tech, a public university, is at least $48.2 million.

Five years ago, on April 16, 2007, an English major at Virginia Tech University named Seung-Hui Cho shot and killed 32 people, wounded another 17, and then committed suicide as the police closed in on him. Since then, 12 more spree killings have claimed the lives of another 90 random victims and wounded another 92 people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time when deranged and well-armed killers suddenly burst upon their daily lives. As the study released today went to press, still another spree killing took place on a university campus where at least seven were killed and three wounded. This most recent spree killing— the 13th, including Cho’s rampage at Virginia Tech five years ago—occurred at a small religious college near Oakland, California, called Oikos University.

Each of these tragedies has in common killers with histories indicating dangerous behavior combined with the lack of adequate gun control. While this breakdown in our legal system resulted in the inestimable loss of life, there are financial costs that also can be calculated. The report, "Auditing the Cost of the Virginia Tech Massacre," estimates that the cost to taxpayers totals $22.24 million, with the additional costs being paid directly by the university and donors. Taxpayer costs that were paid for directly by federal, state, or local government, with 99 percent of these costs borne by Virginia taxpayers.

This report also demonstrates how the background-check system, still rife with loopholes, failed to protect American citizens from an armed and dangerous Seung-Hui Cho, costing innocent lives—many of them young ones.

“The loss of one innocent life to a mentally disturbed shooter should be reason enough to close the gaping holes in the system that permit gun purchases and access to high-capacity magazines that can cause such tragedy,” said Donna Cooper, coauthor of the report and Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. "The events at Virginia Tech drive this point home in the most dramatic of ways because of the sheer number of deaths and extraordinary financial costs to their communities.”

The report recommends several commonsense state and federal measures designed to curb gun violence while protecting the right to bear arms, including:

  • Completing state compliance with requirements to post appropriate mental health records in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System
  • Establishing clear reporting guidelines for when and how mental health records are required to be posted in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System so that states can be held accountable for compliance
  • Requiring a full background check in all gun transactions, including private sales at gun shows and those online, so that dangerous people cannot purchase guns legally in these nontraditional venues
  • Fully funding state technology efforts to comply with the federal background check system requirements
  • Requiring states to comply fully with the protocols of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System or taking away their federal funding if they do not
  • Mandating federal compliance with a proposed presidential executive order directing all agencies to submit records to this instant background check system and certifying that they have done so twice yearly to the U.S. attorney general
  • Outlawing high-capacity bullet magazines
  • Requiring campuses to establish a threat assessment process

Read the report:
Auditing the Cost of the Virginia Tech Massacre: How Much We Pay When Killers Kill

To speak with an expert on this topic, please contact Katie Peters at [email protected] or 202.741.6285.


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