A recent analysis shows that firearm homicide rates increased almost 35% from 2019 to 2020. Firearm suicide rates and disparities by race/ethnicity and poverty level also remain high. In 2020, firearms were involved in 79% of all homicides and 53% of suicides. This piled on top of the tragic backdrop that was the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, which recorded the loss of hundreds of thousands of people.
Counties with greater poverty lines saw the largest increases in firearm homicides. To give you the numbers, 2020 recorded approximately 45,222 gun-related deaths in the United States. That roughly averages to 124 people dying from a gun-related injury each day, which is the highest number of gun-related deaths ever recorded in the U.S. In 2022 alone, the U.S. recorded 233 mass shootings, with the most recent tragedy occurring at the school in Uvalde, Texas.
What Does The Data Say?
According to the data, states with stricter gun laws generally experience lower firearm mortality rates. Some of these states include New York, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and California. A January 2019 study stated that states with higher rates of gun ownership tend to have more mass shootings. Some statistics are difficult to measure, but the current data suggests that gun regulations reduce overall gun mortality rates.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reporting System examined mass shooting data from 1998-2015. The definition of a mass shooting is when four or more people are killed by a firearm. Experts used the data to calculate annual rates of mass shootings by each state. Researchers separated mass shooting events and rates into categories where victims were immediate family members or partners and where victims had other relationships with the perpetrator. After full analysis, a 10-unit increase in state gone law permissiveness saw a 11.5% higher rate of mass shootings. States with more permissive gun laws and greater gun ownership, then, had higher rates of mass shootings.
Where Is Gun Violence Highest In The U.S.?
In 2018, the U.S. ranked 20th for having the highest firearms death rate in the world. As stated earlier, gun-related deaths hit an all-time high in 2020, with more than 45,000 Americans dying because of firearms. That made firearm injury the 13th leading cause of death in the U.S. The Centers of Disease Control and Development (CDC) states that Mississippi, Wyoming, Alabama, Missouri, and Louisiana have the highest firearm mortality rates. South Carolina, Alaska, Tennessee, Arkansas, Montana, and New Mexico also have high firearm mortality rates.
States with the lowest gun-related deaths include Rhode Island, Hawaii, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and New York. International comparison studies looked at mental illness rates, levels of education, demographics, and money spent on education and mental health. You want to know what made the U.S. stand out with its very high homicide rates? The sheer number of firearms that are available to U.S. citizens.
How Do Gun Laws Contribute To Firearm Deaths?
According to research studies, states with lenient gun laws tend to have higher numbers of unintentional gun injuries that result in hospitalization. Gun-related suicide attempts are also more common in states with relaxed gun laws. This isn’t to say that states with stricter gun laws are free of gun violence, though. It can still happen, especially if there are nearby states with weaker gun laws. In regards to high rates of gun violence and weak gun laws, thirteen states are “national failures,” according to researchers. Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Kentucky, Alaska, Mississippi, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Arizona, New Hampshire, and Arkansas have the weakest gun laws and highest rates of gun violence.
Studies confirm that states with stricter gun laws tend to make it harder to purchase a gun. Universal background checks, ID requirements, and checks for ammunition purchases lead to lower rates of firearm injury and mortality. There are more mass shootings in states where stricter measures are not enforced, and in open carry states.
Overall, it is still difficult to measure the impact that certain policies have on gun violence. One jurisdiction or county may enforce laxer laws than a neighboring jurisdiction. Because of this, there is some bleed over from trafficking firearms from places without strict regulations. In order for change to happen, it seems that local policymakers have to understand local contributing factors. Recognize that regulations have their benefits, and may even reduce the rate of gun-related deaths in this country.