How Many Gun Deaths Are There In Your State?

Since Washington is a fetid swamp of moral compromise and soul-sucking humidity, my family and I sometimes debate where we might go if we decided to move elsewhere. One of the possibilities that comes up is Colorado, since we have friends there and the state features lots of opportunities for outdoor recreation. But I'm given pause by the fact that Colorado seems to have more than its share of gun massacres, and even if statistically speaking they aren't something to spend too much time worrying about, it's natural to have it weigh on your mind.

Americans increasingly want to live around people who think like them, and that can extend beyond political beliefs to politically-tinged behaviors, particularly those meant to terrify people who have opinions different from yours. Like many a bleeding-heart liberal, I'd prefer to be able to stop in at my local Target and not have to share my shopping experience with a bunch of nutballs toting AR-15s. Call me crazy.  

If you're considering a move someday, the gun laws in various states might play a role in your decision. But perhaps more helpful would be an accounting of how often people are using their guns on themselves and others. The Violence Policy Center has put together data from the CDC on gun deaths in each state, including murders, accidents, and suicides (there's a strong link between the availability of guns and suicide rates). Their table is here, but I know that what you really want is a chart. So here you go:

Though there's a strong correlation between rates of gun ownership and rates of gun deaths, it isn't perfect. For instance, in Louisiana, which tops the list with almost 19 deaths per 100,000 population, gun ownership rates are slightly lower than some of the Western states near the top (one explanation comes from the "culture of honor" among Southern white men in which slights have to be met with aggression, producing higher rates of violence and homicide, but that's a topic for another day). But as a general matter, states with higher rates of gun ownership have higher rates of gun death.

The national rate of gun deaths was 10.38 per 100,000 population, but as you can see, there's a wide variance, running all the way down to Rhode Island's 3.14 gun deaths per 100,000—only one-sixth the rate in Louisiana. There are a few surprises—Texas, for instance, comes in right about at the national average (and Colorado comes in slightly above average, high-profile mass shootings notwithstanding).

But generally speaking, you've got red states with loose gun laws at the top, blue states with stricter gun laws on the bottom, and purple states in the middle. It's almost as if all those good guys with guns in the South and Mountain West aren't doing their jobs.