Gun violence is a nationwide problem. But because each state has its own unique history, people, and laws, the burden of firearm violence is not shared equally across states or population groups.
RAND researchers have analyzed the effects of several common gun policies, including laws that are more restrictive and more permissive about gun ownership, storage, and use. The result is a clearer understanding of where firearm-related deaths are concentrated and how changes to state laws might alter that picture.
Establishes civil or criminal penalties for storing a handgun in a manner that grants access to minors.
Specifies who may carry concealed weapons and the procedures those people must follow when they wish to exercise this right.
Shall-issue: Grants the right to carry a concealed weapon to all those who meet its permit requirements, without the potential for law enforcement to deny the permit at their discretion.
Permitless: Allows concealed carry without a permit for anyone who is legally eligible to possess the weapon.
||Minimum age of 20 for possession
Restricts the minimum age of possession to 20 years.
Permits the use of lethal force for self-defense outside of the defender’s home or vehicle, even when a retreat from danger would have been possible.
||Universal background check
Requires all handgun sales to include a background check.
Prevents gun buyers from taking possession of their weapons immediately upon purchase of the gun and completion of a background check.
At least seven days: Requires at least a seven-day waiting period
At least 24 hours: Requires at least a 24-hour waiting period.
Which States Have the Highest Rates of Firearm Deaths?
By visualizing state-level mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this interactive map shows that states in the northeast and the coastal west have among the lowest firearm death rates.
Conversely, in the south and mountain west, firearm death rates are especially high.
To see how each state compares with the national average, explore gun mortality outcomes by gender, race, ethnicity, urbanicity, or age in the map below.
How Firearm Deaths in Each State Compare with the National Average
How Do State Laws Affect Firearm Deaths?
Each state’s unique firearm policy environment contributes to its mortality and crime outcomes, but other state factors, such as household firearm ownership rates, poverty and unemployment rates, and population characteristics, are also important.
RAND researchers estimated the individual and combined effects that multiple laws have on firearm deaths and other outcomes while statistically controlling for these and other important state differences that contribute to firearm death outcomes.
This model shows that implementing the most restrictive combination of these laws could substantially reduce homicides and suicides, particularly in the states with existing, more-permissive firearm laws. In contrast, enacting a permissive law regime could substantially increase firearm deaths, especially in states with existing more-restrictive gun laws.
Users can explore how adding or removing certain laws within each state’s existing legal framework might increase or decrease existing death rates within five years of implementation. Note that these are estimates that are subject to considerable uncertainty. See the individual state estimates for descriptions of the range of uncertainty for each estimate.
Changing a state law compares your selections with the state laws in effect at the end of 2018. Our estimates of gun law effects change over the first five years after implementation. The estimated effect of implementing a law assumes that the law was in effect for at least five years.
How Adding or Removing Firearm Laws Could Affect Firearm Deaths
As part of RAND’s Gun Policy in America project, this visualization provides users with information about the distribution of firearm deaths across states and demographic subgroups.
In addition, it allows users to explore how those deaths might be affected by the implementation of a set of common state firearm laws, according to estimates of those effects produced by the RAND project team.
For more details on the methodology and data sources, see the tool documentation.
State mortality rates are depicted in the visualization as a percentage of the national mortality rate for the selected population. Thus, a state with a 2020 mortality rate that is 20-percent lower than the 2020 national average for the selected population will have a mortality rate of -20 percent. Rates per 100,000 people for each mortality outcome can be found by clicking on individual states.
All mortality estimates are constructed from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Wide-Ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research (CDC WONDER) data (for more details, see the tool documentation). CDC WONDER is a website hosted by the CDC that releases public data from its National Vital Statistics Surveillance system (CDC, undated-b). Some subpopulations may be too small within a single state and year to provide a reliable estimate. In addition, CDC privacy protections prohibit the disclosure of mortality rates based on fewer than ten decedents. Our estimates are designed to address these challenges by using data from multiple years when the estimate using the most recent year of data would be unreliable or would compromise privacy. In cases in which the subpopulation is so small that no reliable estimate can be produced even when we look at a decade of data, the state will show “insufficient data” in the visualization.
Data on state laws is drawn from the RAND State Firearm Law Database, version 4.0 (Cherney et al., 2022). Law data are current through January 1, 2020, but do not capture more recent law changes.
Law Effects Data
Statistical and modeling methods used to create these estimates are described in the tool documentation.
- CDC—See Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Underlying Cause of Death, 1999–2020,” WONDER data system, undated-b. As of August 17, 2022: https://wonder.cdc.gov/ucd-icd10.html
- Cherney, Samantha, Andrew R. Morral, Terry L. Schell, Sierra Smucker, and Emily Hoch, Development of the RAND State Firearm Law Database and Supporting Materials, Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND Corporation, TL-A243-2-v2, 2022. As of October 1, 2022: https://www.rand.org/pubs/tools/TLA243-2-v2.html
Kekeli Sumah (design), Lee Floyd (development), Maria Gardner (content), Chara Williams (additional design), Theo Jacobs (back-end programming), Joel Kline (back-end development), Elias Peterson (back-end development), and Heather McCracken (project management)