WASHINGTON – Data recently released from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is once again showing 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. Meanwhile, 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 new information comes from an analysis released by the Violence Policy Center (VPC) and is based on information from 2018, the most recent year for which data is available, and was provided by the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.
The state with the highest per capita gun death rate in 2018 was Mississippi, followed by Alabama, Wyoming, Missouri, and Louisiana. 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 Rhode Island, followed by Massachusetts, Hawaii, New York, and New Jersey. Each of these states has strong gun violence prevention laws and a lower rate of gun ownership.
Overall, the total number of Americans killed by gunfire in 2018 was 39,740, a slight drop from 39,773 in 2017. The nationwide gun death rate in 2018 also decreased slightly to 12.15 per 100,000 from 2017’s gun death rate of 12.23 per 100,000.
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 restrictions on the open and concealed carrying of firearms in public.
State gun ownership rates were obtained from the July 2019 American Journal of Preventative Medicine.