But there’s one thing that is indisputable in the available data on gun violence — and the data is limited since until recently the federal government was effectively barred from gathering it.
The indisputable fact is that where there are more guns, there are more gun deaths.
This is true despite Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s attempt to explain away gun deaths at the elementary school in his state this week by comparing them to gun violence in Chicago.
Texas suffered 4,164 gun deaths in 2020, the most recent year for which the CDC has published data.
That’s a rate of 14.2 deaths per 100,000 Texans.
California, by comparison, saw 3,449 deaths, a gun death rate of 8.5.
Texas does not have the highest gun death rate, however. Far from it.
The top states by gun death rates are:
- Mississippi — 28.6.
- Louisiana — 26.3.
- Wyoming — 25.9.
- Missouri — 23.9.
- Alabama — 23.6.
- Alaska — 23.5.
All of those states with the highest gun death rates are among the ones with the highest gun ownership rates.
- Mississippi — 50% of adults live in a household with a gun.
- Louisiana — 48%.
- Wyoming — 59%.
- Missouri — 48%.
- Alabama — 50%.
- Alaska — 59%.
Where there are fewer guns, there are fewer gun deaths. The states with the lowest gun death rates in 2020, per the CDC (alongside the percentage of homes with a gun in 2007-2016, per RAND) were:
- Hawaii — 3.4 (8% of adults live in a household with a gun).
- Massachusetts — 3.7 (10%).
- New Jersey — 5 (8%).
- Rhode Island — 5.1 (11%).
- New York — 5.3 (14%).
Conversely, with the exception of Louisiana, the states with the highest gun death rates and highest gun ownership rates are among the states Everytown says have the most lax gun laws.
Most gun deaths are suicides
Obviously mass shootings can happen anywhere, as we saw earlier this month in Buffalo, New York, and this week in Uvalde, Texas.
Cities often have higher gun violence rates than states
- Jackson, Mississippi — 69 gun homicides per 100,000 people.
- Gary, Indiana — 64.
- St. Louis — 50.
- New Orleans — 48.
- Memphis, Tennessee — 47.
Baltimore, where the gun laws are relatively strict, was next.
Murder rates rising
In Chicago, they said, gun homicides in 2019 and 2020 were concentrated in neighborhoods far from the city center “that have long suffered from severe disinvestment as a result of white flight, and are now centers of concentrated poverty with predominantly Black residents.”
In other words, it’s generations of neglect and division that help drive the murder rate in cities. All these deaths — rural suicide, urban murder and mass shootings everywhere — have one thing in common: guns.