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States With Higher Gun Ownership and Weak Gun Laws Lead Nation in Gun Death

Alaska, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, and Wyoming Have Highest Gun Death Rates

Washington, DC--States with higher gun ownership rates and weak gun laws have the highest rates of gun death according to a new analysis by the Violence Policy Center (VPC) of just-released 2008 national data (the most recent available) from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

The analysis reveals that the five states with the highest per capita gun death rates were Alaska, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, and Wyoming. Each of these states had a per capita gun death rate far exceeding the national per capita gun death rate of 10.38 per 100,000 for 2008. Each state has lax gun laws and higher gun ownership rates. By contrast, states with strong gun laws and low rates of gun ownership had far lower rates of firearm-related death. Ranking last in the nation for gun death was Hawaii, followed by Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New York and New Jersey (tie). (See rankings below for top and bottom five states. See http://www.vpc.org/fadeathchart11.htm for a ranking of all 50 states.)

VPC Legislative Director Kristen Rand states, “The equation is simple. More guns lead to more gun death, but limiting exposure to firearms saves lives.” The total number of Americans killed by gunfire rose to 31,593 in 2008 from 31,224 in 2007.

States with the Five Highest Gun Death Rates

States with the Five Lowest Gun Death Rates



Household Gun OwnershipGun Death Rate per 100,000RankStateHousehold Gun OwnershipGun Death Rate per 100,000
1Alaska60.6 percent20.6450Hawaii9.7 percent3.18
2Mississippi54.3 percent19.3249Massachusetts 12.8 percent3.42
3 Louisiana45.6 percent18.4748Rhode Island 13.3 percent4.18
4 Alabama57.2 percent17.5346 (tie) New York 18.1 percent4.95
5Wyoming62.8 percent17.4546 (tie) New Jersey 11.3 percent4.95

The VPC defined states with "weak" gun laws as those that add little or nothing to federal restrictions and have permissive laws governing the open or concealed carrying of firearms in public. States with "strong" gun laws were defined as those that add significant state regulation in addition to federal law, such as restricting access to particularly hazardous types of firearms (for example, assault weapons), setting minimum safety standards for firearms and/or requiring a permit to purchase a firearm, and restrictive laws governing the open and concealed carrying of firearms in public. State gun ownership rates were obtained from the September 2005 Pediatrics article “Prevalence of Household Firearms and Firearm-Storage Practices in the 50 States and the District of Columbia: Findings From the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2002,” which is the most recent comprehensive data available on state gun ownership.


For Release:
Monday, October 24, 2011

Marty Langley
Violence Policy Center
(202) 822-8200 x109


The Violence Policy Center is a national educational organization working to stop gun death and injury.
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