The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Marty Langley, 202-822-8200 x109,

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


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 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 Per Capita Gun Death Rates

Alaska--Rank: 1; Household Gun Ownership: 60.6 percent; Gun Death Rate: 20.64 per 100,000.

Mississippi--Rank: 2; Household Gun Ownership: 54.3 percent; Gun Death Rate: 19.32 per 100,000.

Louisiana--Rank: 3; Household Gun Ownership: 45.6 percent; Gun Death Rate: 18.47 per 100,000.

Alabama--Rank: 4; Household Gun Ownership: 57.2 percent; Gun Death Rate: 17.53 per 100,000.

Wyoming--Rank: 5; Household Gun Ownership: 62.8 percent; Gun Death Rate: 17.45 per 100,000.

States with the Five LOWEST Per Capita Gun Death Rates

Hawaii--Rank: 50; Household Gun Ownership: 9.7 percent; Gun Death Rate: 3.18 per 100,000.

Massachusetts--Rank: 49; Household Gun Ownership: 12.8 percent; Gun Death Rate: 3.42 per 100,000.

Rhode Island--Rank: 48; Household Gun Ownership: 13.3 percent; Gun Death Rate: 4.18 per 100,000.

New York--Rank: 46 (tie); Household Gun Ownership: 18.1 percent; Gun Death Rate: 4.95 per 100,000.

New Jersey--Rank: 46 (tie); Household Gun Ownership: 11.3 percent; Gun Death Rate: 4.95 per 100,000.

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.

The Violence Policy Center (VPC) works to stop gun death and injury through research, education, advocacy, and collaboration. Founded in 1988 by Executive Director Josh Sugarmann, a native of Newtown, Connecticut, the VPC informs the public about the impact of gun violence on their daily lives, exposes the profit-driven marketing and lobbying activities of the firearms industry and gun lobby, offers unique technical expertise to policymakers, organizations, and advocates on the federal, state, and local levels, and works for policy changes that save lives. The VPC has a long and proven record of policy successes on the federal, state, and local levels, leading the National Rifle Association to acknowledge us as "the most effective ... anti-gun rabble-rouser in Washington."