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

For Release: Monday, October 24, 2011

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 this chart 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

Rank

State

Household Gun Ownership Gun Death Rate per 100,000 Rank State Household Gun Ownership Gun Death Rate per 100,000
1 Alaska 60.6 percent 20.64 50 Hawaii 9.7 percent 3.18
2 Mississippi 54.3 percent 19.32 49 Massachusetts 12.8 percent 3.42
3 Louisiana 45.6 percent 18.47 48 Rhode Island 13.3 percent 4.18
4 Alabama 57.2 percent 17.53 46 (tie) New York 18.1 percent 4.95
5 Wyoming 62.8 percent 17.45 46 (tie) New Jersey 11.3 percent 4.95

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.

About the Violence Policy Center
The Violence Policy Center is a national educational organization working to stop gun death and injury. Follow the VPC on TwitterFacebook, and YouTube.

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