Under fire: Strong link found between strength of states’ gun laws and rates of gun violence

Under fire: Strong link found between strength of states’ gun laws and rates of gun violence

A new report from the Center for American Progress (CAP) has found a strong correlation between the strength of state gun laws and levels of gun violence. The report, which analyzes ten specific indicators of gun violence in all fifty states, found that the ten states with the weakest gun laws collectively have levels of gun violence that are more than three times higher than the ten states with the strongest gun laws.

“With 33,000 people killed with guns every year, gun violence is, unfortunately, a uniquely American problem; however, our analysis demonstrates that it is not an unsolvable one,” said Chelsea Parsons, Vice President for Guns and Crime Policy at CAP. “There is an unquestionable link between the strength of a state’s gun laws and the rates of gun violence in that state. While strong gun laws are certainly not the only factor impacting levels of gun violence in a state, it is undeniable that Americans in states with stronger gun laws are safer from gun violence than those in states with weaker laws.”

CAP notes that the report looks at ten critical indicators of gun violence in the United States, including:

overall gun deaths; gun suicides, homicides, and accidents; mass shootings; intimate partner gun homicides of women; gun deaths of people younger than age 21; law enforcement feloniously killed with a gun; fatal shootings by police; and the rate at which crime guns are exported. By comparing the data from all fifty states to the corresponding grade from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence’s “2015 State Law Scorecard” — which rates the strength of state gun laws — the report found a striking correlation between the strength of a state’s gun laws and the rates of gun violence in that state.

“Gun violence is a public health crisis wreaking havoc on our families and communities across the nation,” said Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy (D). “Connecticut is proof positive that tough, smart gun laws help make our communities safer. For decades, lawmakers in Connecticut have worked together to strengthen our laws to prevent more gun deaths. Commonsense reforms save lives, and I encourage other lawmakers to act on this issue with urgency.”

“Though very concerning, the results of this report are unsurprising to those of us in the State of Florida — where our governor, cabinet, and state legislature continually put the will of the gun lobby over common sense laws that could literally save lives,” said Tallahassee, Florida, Mayor Andrew Gillum. “We are currently fighting these special interests in the City of Tallahassee, to help communities around our state to effectively respond to the realities of gun violence and overall keep our children and families safe.”

According to the analysis, the ten states with the worst rates of gun violence across the ten indicators by rank are as follows:

  1. Louisiana
  2. Alaska
  3. Mississippi
  4. West Virginia
  5. Alabama
  6. South Carolina
  7. Wyoming
  8. Arizona
  9. Montana
  10. Oklahoma


CAP says that the report offers commonsense recommendations that policymakers in states with weak gun laws should consider to reduce gun violence, including closing the private sale loophole and requiring background checks for all gun sales, prohibiting domestic abusers and stalkers from gun possession, banning or more strictly regulating assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and investing in community-based violence prevention programs.

— Read more in America under Fire: An Analysis of Gun Violence in the United States and the Link to Weak Gun Laws (Center for American Progress, 11 October 2016); and see the Gun Violence across Americainteractive map (Center for American Progress, 11 October 2016)

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