For Release: Wednesday, January 23, 2019
Alaska, Montana, Alabama, Louisiana, and Missouri Have Highest Gun Death Rates in the Nation
Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, and Connecticut Have Lowest 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 highest rates of overall gun death in the nation are those with weak gun violence prevention laws and higher rates of gun ownership according to a new Violence Policy Center (VPC) analysis.
In addition, states with the lowest overall gun death rates have some of the strongest gun violence prevention laws in the nation and lower rates of gun ownership.
The VPC analysis refers to overall gun death rates in 2017, 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 highest gun death rates and the five lowest 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-2017/.
States with the Five Highest
States with the Five Lowest
|Household Gun Ownership||Gun Death Rate per 100,000||Rank||State||Household Gun Ownership||Gun Death Rate per 100,000|
|1||Alaska||56.4 percent||24.33||50||Hawaii||12.5 percent||2.73|
|2||Montana||67.5 percent||23.23||49||Massachusetts||14.3 percent||3.82|
|3||Alabama||49.5 percent||23.06||48||New York||22.2 percent||3.89|
|4||Louisiana||49.0 percent||21.52||47||Rhode Island||15.9 percent||4.06|
|5||Missouri||43.9 percent||21.38||46||Connecticut||22.2 percent||5.24|
The state with the highest per capita gun death rate in 2017 was Alaska, followed by Montana, Alabama, Louisiana, and Missouri. Each of these states has extremely lax gun violence prevention laws as well as a higher rate of gun ownership. The state with the lowest gun death rate in the nation was Hawaii, followed by Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. Each of these states has strong gun violence prevention laws and a lower rate of gun ownership.
The total number of Americans killed by gunfire increased to 39,773 in 2017 from 38,658 in 2016. The nationwide gun death rate in 2017 increased to 12.21 per 100,000 from 2016’s gun death rate of 11.95 per 100,000.
“Year after year the numbers reflect the same undeniable fact. States with fewer guns and strong gun laws have far lower rates of gun death,” states VPC Legislative Director Kristen Rand, “Gun violence is a growing public health crisis that demands immediate attention from policymakers on Capitol Hill and in statehouses across the country.”
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.
The VPC defined states with “weak” gun violence prevention laws as those that add little or nothing to federal law and have permissive laws governing the open or concealed carrying of firearms in public. 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 restricting the open and concealed carrying of firearms in public.
State gun ownership rates were obtained from the October 2014 American Journal of Public Health article by Michael Siegel et al., “The Relationship Between Gun Ownership and Stranger and Nonstranger Firearm Homicide Rates in the United States, 1981-2010,” 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, Facebook, and Instagram.