State Firearm Mortality Explorer

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.

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. To see how death rates have changed over time, see our Longitudinal Firearm Mortality Explorer. To see how state laws might affect mortality rates, see the Firearm Law Effects Tool.

How Firearm Deaths in Each State Compare with the National Average

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Key Takeaways

Regional Patterns

  • The United States has a high firearm death rate, but this fact can obscure the striking differences in death rates among U.S. states; for example, Mississippi has a firearm death rate more than seven times higher than that of Massachusetts or Hawaii and five times higher than that of New Jersey.
  • There are wide and geographically specific differences in state firearm homicide rates; states in the northeast, west, and north-central regions have lower firearm homicide rates, while states in the central midwest and south have among the highest such rates.
  • Firearm suicides are less geographically concentrated than firearm homicides, but rates of such suicides are especially low in several northeastern states, California, and Hawaii. In contrast, rates are high in the mountain west and midsouth. Indeed, rates in Wyoming, Montana, and Alaska are more than eight times higher than rates in Massachusetts or New Jersey.
  • Overall, firearm death rates vary a great deal by subgroup, but across all subgroups, death rates remain lower than average in California, Hawaii, Minnesota, and several northeastern states. Death rates are highest for many subgroups in the south-central and central midwestern states and the mountain west.
  • Firearm homicide rates among Black people in Missouri are more than ten times higher than in Maine, New Hampshire, or North Dakota, and more than 18 times higher than in Hawaii.

National Patterns

  • Firearm death rates are lower in urban counties than in nonurban counties. This is driven by higher rates of firearm suicide in nonurban areas.
  • Risk of firearm homicide is more than ten times higher for non-Hispanic Black populations than non-Hispanic White populations nationally. This is the largest demographic disparity in the data.
  • Hispanic populations have firearm homicide rates that are more than twice as high as non-Hispanic White populations. In contrast, non-Hispanic White populations have firearm suicide rates that are more than double those of non-Hispanic Black populations and more than three times larger than those of Hispanic populations.
  • Firearm homicide rates decrease with each successively older age group, while firearm suicide rates increase with age.

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 and demographic subgroups.

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

Mortality Data

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 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-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 that are 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.

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 do not capture more recent law changes.

References

  • CDC—See Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Final Multiple Cause of Death, 1999–2020,” and “Final Multiple Cause of Death, 2018–2021,” WONDER data system, undated-b. As of February 26, 2024: 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, RAND Corporation, TL-A243-2-v3, 2024. As of February 26, 2024: https://www.rand.org/pubs/tools/TLA243-2-v3.html

Digital Credits

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)