States with Weak Gun Laws and Higher Gun Ownership Lead Nation in Gun Deaths, New Data for 2013 Confirms (1/29/2015)
Alaska, Louisiana Have Highest Gun Death Rates in the Nation; Hawaii, Massachusetts Have Lowest
Washington, DC — Newly available data for 2013 reveals that states with weak gun violence prevention laws and higher rates of gun ownership have the highest overall gun death rates in the nation, according to a Violence Policy Center (VPC) analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.
Meanwhile, states with the lowest overall gun death rates have lower rates of gun ownership and some of the strongest gun violence prevention laws in the nation. However, even in these states the human toll of gun violence is far above the gun death rate in other industrialized nations.
The VPC analysis refers to overall gun death rates in 2013, the most recent year for which data is available. 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/fadeathchart15.htm.
States with the Five Highest Gun Death Rates
States with the Five Lowest Gun Death Rates
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 19.59 50 Hawaii 9.7 percent 2.71
2 Louisiana 45.6 percent 19.15 49 Massachusetts 12.8 percent 3.18
3 Alabama 57.2 percent 17.79 48 New York 18.1 percent 4.39
4 Mississippi 54.3 percent 17.55 47 Connecticut 16.2 percent 4.48
5 Wyoming 62.8 percent 17.51 46 Rhode Island 13.3 percent 5.33
The five states with the highest per capita gun death rates in 2013 were Alaska, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and Wyoming. 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, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. Each of these states has strong gun violence prevention laws and a lower rate of gun ownership.
“Reducing exposure to firearms and having stronger gun laws saves lives,” says VPC Legislative Director Kristen Rand. “Each year, the data consistently show that states with strong gun violence prevention laws and low rates of gun ownership have the lowest gun death rates in the nation. The highest gun death rates are in states with weak gun violence prevention laws and easy access to guns.”
“This report should be a wake-up call to state legislators,” says Cathie Whittenburg, communications director of States United to Prevent Gun Violence. “There is no higher priority for elected officials than enacting laws that keep families safe from death and injury.”
The nationwide gun death rate was 10.64 per 100,000. The total number of Americans killed by gunfire rose to 33,636 in 2013 from 33,563 in 2012.
America’s gun death rates — both nationwide and in the states — dwarf those of other industrialized nations. In 2011, the gun death rate in the United Kingdom was 0.23 per 100,000 and in Australia the gun death rate was 0.86 per 100,000. (Data for these countries is available at GunPolicy.org, hosted by the Sydney School of Public Health at the University of Sydney in Australia).
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 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 published data available on state gun ownership.