For Release: Wednesday, February 15, 2023
Massachusetts, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island Have Lowest Gun Death Rates in the Nation
Mississippi, Louisiana, New Mexico, Wyoming, and Alabama Have Highest Gun Death Rates in the Nation
Washington, DC — New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 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 uses 2021 CDC Wonder data and refers to overall gun death rates in 2021, 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 http://www.vpc.org/state-firearm-death-rates-ranked-by-rate-2021/.
The state with the lowest gun death rate in the nation was Massachusetts, followed by Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island. The state with the highest gun death rate in 2021 was Mississippi, followed by Louisiana, New Mexico, Wyoming, and Alabama.
The total number of Americans killed by gunfire in 2021 was 48,830, an eight percent increase from 45,222 in 2020. The nationwide gun death rate in 2021 increased from 13.73 per 100,000 in 2020 to 14.71 per 100,000 in 2021.
The increase in Americans killed with guns was driven by both gun homicide and gun suicide in 2021. The number of firearm homicides increased from 19,384 in 2020 to 20,958 in 2021 – an increase of eight percent. Firearm suicide deaths also increased eight percent in 2021 – from 24,292 in 2020 to 26,328 in 2021.
VPC Government Affairs Director Kristen Rand states, “America is facing an unprecedented gun violence crisis. The evidence could not be more compelling that our spiraling gun death rates are driven by exposure to firearms.”
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. States with weaker gun violence prevention laws were defined as those that add little or nothing to federal law and have permissive laws governing the open or 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.