DENVER (KDVR) — National data does not show a connection between state gun ownership rates and gun homicide rates.
The national conversation has turned to gun violence and gun control in the last two weeks in the wake of the Uvalde and Tulsa shootings. President Joe Biden will address the nation on the subject Thursday night.
Gun control and gun violence discussions are complex. They involve who can own firearms and who can take them from owners deemed unsuitable, under what circumstances people can purchase them, age limits, ammunition type and availability, magazine capacity, “assault” features such as shrouded barrels or collapsible stocks, importation and straw purchase prosecutions.
Whatever may or may not change, gun ownership itself does not appear to be the issue. Firearm ownership data from the RAND Corporation and firearm homicide data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention do not have a clear connection. States with high gun ownership rates often have the lowest gun murder rates and vice versa.
The RAND Corporation estimated the percentage of a state’s adults who lived in a household with at least one firearm in it in 2016.
Upper Mountain, upper Great Plains and southern states have the nation’s highest rates. Montana has the highest, with 65% of adults living in a household with a firearm. Wyoming, Idaho, West Virginia and Alaska round out the top five. New Jersey, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Rhode Island and New York have the nation’s lowest gun ownership rates.
Gun homicide rates do not directly match.
Some states have high rates of both. Louisiana and Mississippi have the nation’s highest gun homicide rates and some of the highest gun ownership rates. Others, such as California and New York, have low ownership rates and low gun homicide rates.
But the connection is largely coincidental. Montana, Wyoming, West Virginia, and Idaho have the nation’s highest gun ownership rates but some of the lowest gun murder rates. On the other hand, Maryland, Illinois and New Mexico have relatively low gun ownership rates and a high gun murder rate, and it’s the same with Illinois. Middle ranges of either rate vary widely across the U.S.
This analysis applies to homicides, not firearm mortality. Firearm mortality, which incorporates both homicide and suicide, is more closely matched with ownership rates. Suicide accounted for 54% of the nation’s gun deaths in 2020, according to CDC data.