Between big-city murders, mass shootings, and suicides, gun violence is a grim reality in the United States. Over 342,439 people died from firearms in the U.S. between 2008 and 2017, equating to one gun death every 15 minutes. In 2017 alone, 39,773 Americans were killed by guns, about 60% of which were self-inflicted. This was the highest absolute number of gun deaths in nearly 50 years. The rate of deaths in 2017 was 12 per 100,000 people, the highest rate since the 1990s.
According to data from Pew Research Center, 44% of Americans say that they know someone who has been shot. Gunshot victims are five times as likely to need blood transfusion than other patients and require about ten times more blood when receiving a transfusion. Gunshot victims are also 14 times more likely to die than other trauma patients.
The FBI's 2019 Crime in the U.S. report shows that firearms were used in 73.66% of murders in the United States in 2019.
Firearm legislation is a big topic in the United States. It's important to look at the relationship between gun laws and gun deaths in the states. The South is a high-risk area for firearm violence, with those along the Mississippi River consistently reporting some of the highest gun mortality rates. Southern states, such as Florida and Louisiana, have seen sharp increases in gun violence since enacting stand your ground laws. Since enacting its stand your ground law in 2005, Florida has seen a 32% increase in gun deaths.
The rate of firearm deaths and a state's strictness of gun laws have a strong correlation in some states, while not as much in others. Alaska, which has some of the laxest gun laws, has the highest firearm deaths in the country. However, Delaware has significantly stricter gun laws than Virginia but has a higher rate of firearm deaths.
Suicides account for the highest number of gun-related deaths in the U.S. The Pew Research Center reports that since the 1990s, gun homicides have declined while suicides by firearm have increased. Of the 39,773 firearm deaths in the country in 2017, 23,854 were by suicide, about 60%. Gun-related suicides are most common in Wyoming, Montana, and Alaska. Suicide is especially high among American Indian and Alaskan Native populations, greatly contributing to Alaska's high rate of gun deaths.
Gun Deaths per Capita by State
The following ten states have the highest gun deaths per capita (per 100,000):
- Alaska - 24.4
- Mississippi - 24.2
- Wyoming - 22.3
- New Mexico 22.3
- Alabama - 22.2
- Louisiana - 22.1
- Missouri - 20.6
- South Carolina - 19.9
- Arkansas - 19.3
- Montana - 19.3
Conversely, the states with the lowest gun deaths per capita are Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Hawaii, and Rhode Island, all of which have fewer than five gun deaths per 100,000 people. These states also have the lowest gun ownership in the United States. Massachusetts and New Jersey have the lowest gun ownership rate of 14.7%, followed by Rhode Island with 14.8%, Hawaii with 14.9%, and New York with 19.9%. These five states are the only state to have gun ownership rates below 20%.
The states with the highest gun deaths per capita have some of the country's highest gun ownership rates. Montana has the highest with 66.3%, followed by Wyoming with 66.2%, and Alaska with 64.5%.