The National Rifle Association (NRA) and its allies in Congress frequently claim that gun violence is highest in places with the toughest crime laws. But a new study from the Center for American Progress (CAP) suggests something closer to the opposite is true — the states with laxer gun laws tend to be the ones contributing the highest shares of national gun deaths and injuries.
The authors of the report, called “America Under The Gun,” developed a list of ten indices of gun violence, ranging from gun homicide levels to firearm assaults to crime gun export rate (the number of guns sold in that state used in crimes around the country), and ranked each state from 1–50 along each index. They then took the average of each state’s ranking to determine its overall level of gun violence relative to other states. Lousiana was the highest, with an average of fifth-worst across all ten indices, while Hawaii’s 45.4 ranking was the best.
A statistical regression comparing these rankings with strength of gun law found a correlation between weak gun laws and violence levels as measured by the 10-index average. Comparing a state’s relative ranking in strength of gun law (as judged by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence) to a state’s relative gun violence ranking yielded clear evidence that states with looser gun laws contributed more to the national gun violence epidemic:
While many factors contribute to the rates of gun violence in any state, our research clearly demonstrates a significant correlation between the strength of a state’s gun laws and the prevalence of gun violence in the state. Across the key indicators of gun violence that we analyzed, the 10 states with the weakest gun laws collectively have a level of gun violence that is more than twice as high — 104 percent higher — than the 10 states with the strongest gun laws.
Here is the map:
The CAP report’s finding is yet another contribution to a growing body of empirical evidence that strong gun laws work. A prior, less comprehensive study also established links between gun deaths and loose gun laws. After Missouri repealed its background check law, gun homicides went up 25 percent despite a national and regional decline. Three independent papers have found that counties with more guns have higher rates of gun death.
The NRA has long attempted to use Congressional funding restrictions to cripple research on gun violence on grounds that it “may be used to advocate or promote” new gun laws.