States with Strong Gun Laws and Lower Gun Ownership Have Lowest Gun Death Rates in the Nation, New Data for 2019 Confirms

For Release: Thursday, February 11, 2021

Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Hawaii, and Rhode Island Have Lowest Gun Death Rates in the Nation

Alaska, Mississippi, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Alabama Have Highest Gun Death Rates in the Nation

Washington, DC — Just-released WISQARS data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control show that states with the lowest rates of overall gun death in the nation are those with strong gun violence prevention laws and low rates of gun ownership according to a new Violence Policy Center (VPC) analysis.

In contrast, the five states with the highest overall gun death rates have weaker gun violence prevention laws and higher rates of gun ownership.

The VPC analysis refers to overall gun death rates in 2019, the most recent year for which data is available. The deaths include gun homicides, suicides, and unintentional shootings. A table of the states with the five lowest gun death rates and the five highest gun death rates is below. For a list of gun death rates in all 50 states, see

The state with the lowest gun death rate in the nation was Massachusetts, followed by New York, New Jersey, Hawaii, and Rhode Island. The state with the highest gun death rate in 2019 was Alaska, followed by Mississippi, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Alabama.

The total number of Americans killed by gunfire in 2019 was 39,707, a slight drop from 39,740 in 2018. The nationwide gun death rate in 2018 also decreased slightly to 12.10 per 100,000 from 2018’s gun death rate of 12.16 per 100,000.

VPC Legislative Director Kristen Rand states, “The same fact is revealed year after year. States with effective gun laws and lower gun ownership have the lowest overall gun death rates. The bottom line is that reduced exposure to guns coupled with strong gun laws save lives.”

State gun death rates are calculated by dividing the number of gun deaths by the total state population and multiplying the result by 100,000 to obtain the rate per 100,000, which is the standard and accepted method for comparing fatal levels of gun violence.

States with strong gun violence prevention laws were defined as those that add significant state regulation that is absent from federal law, such as restricting access to particularly hazardous and deadly types of firearms (for example, assault weapons), setting minimum safety standards for firearms and/or requiring a permit to purchase a firearm, and restrictions on the open and concealed carrying of firearms in public.

State gun ownership rates were obtained from the July 2019 American Journal of Preventative Medicine article by Aaron J. Kivisto, et al., “Firearm Ownership and Domestic Versus Nondomestic Homicide in the U.S.,” which is the most recent comprehensive published data available on state gun ownership.


The Violence Policy Center is a national educational organization working to stop gun death and injury. Follow the VPC on Twitter and Facebook.

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