A Look at Gun Ownership and Firearm Death Rates

It’s been dubbed the second deadliest school shooting in US history, after the 2007 Virginia Tech incident. If you’ve been watching the news, you’re probably already an expert in this tragedy. As opposed to previous gun massacres, this time around, the media has done a pretty good job at focusing on recovery rather than presenting the gory, rating-bringing details. But as I surfed the different channels covering Sandy Hook Elementary (and there were plenty), listening to discussions about gun control, gun violence and the factors playing into these incidents, few (if any) news commentators gave hard facts about gun ownership or gun deaths. And so, the journey for knowledge started; knowledge which I share with you in the figures and tables below. As a side note, I do not own a gun, although I will one day purchase one for my protection and leisure.

In 2001, the CDC asked respondents of the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey whether they had firearms in or around their homes:

Are any firearms now kept in or around your home? Include those kept in a garage, outdoor storage area, car, truck, or other motor vehicle.

The data revealed the highest gun ownership rates in Wyoming, Montana and South Dakota, while lowest were in District of Columbia, New Jersey and Massachusetts. The interactive map below does a good job at showing the data for some simple assertions about clustering. When looking at death rates per 100,000 due to fire arms (keep in mind these figures are from 2009), we see similar clustering of deaths, with high gun ownership states having high firearm death rates.

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According to the map, we could assume that the states with highest gun ownership rates also had highest firearm death rates per 100,000. However, this stands true for only 5 of the top 10 highest gun ownership states. Wyoming, Montana, Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama are present in both highest gun ownership and highest firearm death rate tables, with Wyoming leading the pack (59.7% gun ownership and 18.1 deaths per 100,000).

TOP 10 STATES – HIGHEST GUN OWNERSHIP (2001)

 

TOP 10 STATES – HIGHEST FIREARM DEATHS PER 100,000 (2009)

This same relative trend can be observed in the top 10 states with lowest gun ownership/deaths per 100,000. Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island are present in both lists. The interesting observation here is that the top 5 safest states (in terms of firearm deaths) are also in the top 6 lowest gun ownership proportions.

TOP 10 STATES – LOWEST GUN OWNERSHIP (2001)

 

TOP 10 STATES – LOWEST FIREARM DEATHS PER 100,000 (2009)

Looking at the big picture, there is an obvious relationship between gun ownership and firearm death patterns across the United States and this trend is maintained across states. Take a look at the bar charts side by side and judge for yourself.

Side note: while I do intend on purchasing a firearm eventually, I do not believe that the solution to ending school shootings is to arm every single school security guard. Nice try Mr. LaPierre.

[tableau server=”public.tableausoftware.com” workbook=”GunOwnershipandDeathsbyState” view=”Dashboard2″ tabs=”no” toolbar=”no” revert=”” refresh=”yes” linktarget=”” width=”654px” height=”629px”][/tableau]

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