Changes in State Firearm Mortality

Explore how rates of firearm deaths have changed in the past four decades and how the pattern differs among states.

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 precipitously over the next decade and remained relatively low for almost 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 since risen rapidly and, by 2023, these rates were near their peak levels in the early 1990s.

The visualization below illustrates these rates for the country and each state between 1979 and 2021. Select firearm deaths, firearm suicides, firearm homicides, total suicides, or total homicides from the drop-down box and hover or tap on a line to identify individual states.

Many individual states have seen a pattern of firearm violence that is similar to the pattern in the country overall during this period. Other states have seen rates of firearm violence rise relative to the national rate. These states include Wisconsin, Delaware, and Minnesota for firearm homicides and Alaska, North Dakota, and Montana for firearm suicides. In contrast, some states have seen reductions in violence relative to national averages over this period, including Wyoming, Idaho, and New York for firearm homicides and Hawaii, California, and the District of Columbia for firearm suicides.

Many factors affect trends in state firearm violence, such as changing economic conditions, state population demographics, and national trends. Changes in state firearm policies have also been shown to affect mortality rates. The Firearm Law Effects Tool illustrates our estimates of many of these effects. For mortality rates across states by age, gender, race, and urbanicity, see the State Firearm Mortality Explorer.

The visualization below allows users to explore when each state implemented several different types of gun laws. By entering a single state name below the graphic, selecting “View on Chart,” and then toggling “Show Policy Changes” on the upper right of the figure, the user can view key firearm laws passed (and repealed) in that state.

per 100,000 by State from 1979-2020

Gun Ownership Estimates

Comparing state outcomes:

Scroll

Refine by state: Hover over or tap on a line in the chart to identify the state and year shown. To view a specific state, type the name into the field below. Hover over state laws to isolate them. As many as four states can be selected at a time. The trend line is shown in purple when death rates are estimated from data from multiple years.

Data Sources

As part of RAND’s Gun Policy in America project, this visualization provides users with information about the distribution of firearm deaths across states.

For more details on the methodology and data sources, see the tool documentation.

Mortality Data

All mortality estimates are constructed from the 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-d; CDC, undated-e). 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. Estimates based on multiple years of data are graphed in purple.

Law Data

Data on state laws are drawn from the RAND State Firearm Law Database, version 5.0 (Cherney et al., 2024). Law data are current through January 1, 2024, but these data do not capture more-recent law changes.

References

  • CDC—See Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Multiple Cause of Death, 1999–2020,” WONDER data system, undated-d. As of March 12, 2024: https://wonder.cdc.gov/mcd-icd10.html
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Multiple Cause of Death, 2018–2021, Single Race,” WONDER data system, undated-e. As of March 12, 2024: https://wonder.cdc.gov/mcd-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, RAND Corporation, TL-A243-2-v2, 2024. As of February 26, 2024: https://www.rand.org/pubs/tools/TLA243-2-v2.html

Digital Credits

Kekeli Sumah (Digital Designer), Lee Floyd (Front-End Developer), and Heather McCracken (Project Manager)