Online Tool Allows State-by-State Analysis of Firearm Death Rates over 40-Year Period

For Release

April 2, 2024

Firearm homicides have risen faster relative to the overall national trend in states such as Wisconsin, Delaware, and Minnesota, while firearm suicides have risen faster in Alaska, North Dakota, and Montana, according to a new tool from RAND that allows users to examine state-level firearm death rates over the past four decades.

The visualization tool shows that some states have seen reductions in violence relative to national averages over the past four decades, including Wyoming, Idaho, and New York for firearm homicides, and Hawaii, California, and the District of Columbia for firearm suicides.

Researchers say that many factors affect trends in state firearm violence, including changing economic conditions, state population demographics, and national trends. Changes in state firearm policies also have been shown to affect mortality rates.

The new tool is the latest in a series of web-based visualization tools from the RAND Gun Policy in America initiative. Other tools allow users to explore issues such as firearm violence trends at the state level and the effectiveness of firearm policies at the state level.

“Gun violence is a nationwide problem, but the burden of firearm violence is not shared equally across states or population groups,” said Andrew Morral, coleader of the RAND Gun Policy in America initiative. “These tools allow policymakers and individuals to better understand those differences and explore how adoption of certain gun policies may change firearm injuries and deaths.”

Over the past 40 years, deaths from firearm injuries in the United States (from homicides, suicides, and accidents) peaked in the early and mid-1990s, but then fell sharply over the next decade and remained relatively low for nearly 15 years.

Over the same period, firearm suicide rates reached their lowest point in the mid-2000s and have been rising almost every year since then.

Firearm homicide rates reached their lowest point in 2014, but have risen rapidly since then. By 2023, firearm homicide rates were higher than they have been for almost 30 years.

The new RAND tool allows users to visualize the rates of firearm deaths, firearm suicides, firearm homicides, total suicides, or total homicides both for the nation and for individual states between 1979 and 2021.

RAND also has released updated versions of two other tools. One allows users to examine how firearm homicides, firearm suicides, and other mortality outcomes differ by state and within demographic groups defined by age, gender, race, and county urbanicity.

The second allows users to explore how state mortality rates are expected to change after implementing or repealing 14 different state gun laws, according to RAND's latest estimates of the effects of these laws.

More than 48,000 Americans died from deliberate and unintentional gun injuries in 2021, with just more than half of the deaths being suicides.

Support for the RAND Gun Policy in America initiative is provided by Arnold Ventures.

The RAND Social and Economic Well-Being division seeks to actively improve the health, and social and economic well-being of populations and communities throughout the world.

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