States with the Most (& Least) Gun Deaths [+ Causes]

The states with the most gun deaths are Alaska, Alabama, Montana, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Most firearm fatalities are the result of suicide, which represets 60 percent of gun deaths. Homicide, unintentional injuries, or interactions with law enforcement are the other most common gun deaths. Read now for a list of states with the most and least gun deaths in the country.

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Natasha McLachlan is a writer who currently lives in Southern California. She is an alumna of California College of the Arts, where she obtained her B.A. in Writing and Literature. Her current work revolves around insurance guides and informational articles. She truly enjoys helping others learn more about everyday, practical matters through her work.

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Laura Walker graduated college with a BS in Criminal Justice with a minor in Political Science. She married her husband and began working in the family insurance business in 2005. She became a licensed agent and wrote P&C business focusing on personal lines insurance for 10 years. Laura serviced existing business and wrote new business. She now uses her insurance background to help educate...

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Reviewed by Laura Walker
Former Licensed Agent

UPDATED: Nov 14, 2020

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Sharp increases in firearm fatalities, as well as the aftermath of recent shootings in Jersey City, El Paso, and Dayton, have kept the issue of gun violence in the news.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals that deaths due to gun violence rose by 16.5 percent between 2007 and 2017, countering a long-term downward trend. In 2017 alone, there were 39,773 firearm fatalities nationwide, a rate of 12 fatalities per 100,000 residents.


Graph of spike in firearm fatalities over time including injury intent

Most firearm fatalities are the result of suicide, homicide, unintentional injuries, or interactions with law enforcement (legal interventions).

While the rates of unintentional injuries, legal intervention, and other less common forms of firearm fatalities have remained relatively flat over the past decade, the rate of firearm-related suicides and firearm-related homicides increased by a staggering 23.2 percent and 9.5 percent respectively since 2007.

Suicide now represents nearly 60 percent of all firearm fatalities, accounting for 23,854 deaths in 2017.

Although gun violence is a nationwide issue, the firearm fatality rate varies widely by location. At the state level, certain Midwest and Southern states suffer firearm fatality rates that are 1.5 to two times the national average.

Conversely, Northeast and West Coast states tend to experience lower levels of gun violence.

Geographic firearm fatalities by state with the most deaths

To find which individual states have the highest and lowest firearm fatality rates, our researchers at U.S. Insurance Agents analyzed cause of death data from the CDC’s WONDER database. To make data comparable across states, all death rates are age-adjusted and expressed per 100,000 residents.

Additionally, for each state, our researchers identified the 10-year change in firearm deaths, the most common cause of firearm death, the racial group with the highest firearm fatality rate, as well as the county with the highest firearm fatality rate. Here are the states with the highest and lowest gun fatality rates.

10 States with the Highest Firearm Death Rates

Alaska State Capitol building

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#1 – Alaska

  • Firearm death rate (age-adjusted): 24.5 per 100k
  • 10-year percent change: 35.4%
  • Total firearm deaths 2017: 180
  • Most common cause of firearm death: Suicide
  • Most impacted race/ethnicity: American Indian or Alaska Native
  • Most impacted county: Anchorage Borough (24.6 per 100k)

Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery, Alabama during summer with blue sky

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#2 – Alabama

  • Firearm death rate (age-adjusted): 22.9 per 100k
  • 10-year percent change: 32.4%
  • Total firearm deaths 2017: 1,124
  • Most common cause of firearm death: Suicide
  • Most impacted race/ethnicity: Black or African American
  • Most impacted county: Tie: Talladega County, Russell County (34.2 per 100k)

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Montana State Capitol Building in Helena, Montana with blue sky

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#3 – Montana

  • Firearm death rate (age-adjusted): 22.5 per 100k
  • 10-year percent change: 64.2%
  • Total firearm deaths 2017: 244
  • Most common cause of firearm death: Suicide
  • Most impacted race/ethnicity: White
  • Most impacted county: Cascade County (24.6 per 100k)

Baton Rouge, Louisiana skyline from Louisiana State Capitol with blue sky

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#4 – Louisiana

Jackson, Mississippi, USA cityscape at dusk with sunset

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#5 – Mississippi


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Missouri State Capital Building in Jefferson City, Missouri on sunny day with blue sky

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#6 – Missouri

Little Rock, Arkansas state capitol at dusk with pink sunset

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#7 – Arkansas

Downtown Capitol Building Legislative Center in Cheyenne, Wyoming during summer with blue sky and green trees

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#8 – Wyoming

West Virginia State Capitol in Charleston, West Virginia in evening with lights and green trees

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#9 – West Virginia

State Capital Building in Santa Fe, New Mexico with blue sky

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#10 – New Mexico

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10 States with the Lowest Firearm Death Rates

Street view of Hawaii State Capital building in Honolulu, Hawaii with flags and clouds in sky

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#1 – Hawaii

New York State Capitol in Albany, New York with reflection.

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#2 – New York

Boston, Massachusetts cityscape with the State House.

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#3 – Massachusetts


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Rhode Island State House in Providence, Rhode Island during winter with gray sky

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#4 – Rhode Island

Connecticut State Capitol in Hartford, Connecticut, USA during autumn with orange leaves.

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#5 – Connecticut

New Jersey State Capitol in Trenton, New Jersey during summer with blue sky and green trees

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#6 – New Jersey

Capital Christmas tree in front of the California State Capitol building in Sacramento, California.

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#7 – California

St. Paul state capital building in Minnesota with blue sky

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#8 – Minnesota

Street view of Nebraska State Capitol in Lincoln, Nebraska during summer with blue sky

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#9 – Nebraska

Side view of De Moines State Capitol Building in Des Moines, Iowa during summer

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#10 – Iowa

Methodology & Detailed Findings

All gun death statistics were obtained from the Centers for Disease Control’s WONDER database. Age-adjusted death rates were obtained for all deaths caused by firearms in 2007 and in 2017, the most recent year for which information is available.

The change in the death rate was calculated as the percent change in the age-adjusted death rate between 2007 and 2017. All death rates are reported as the number of deaths per 100,000 residents.

For the purpose of this analysis, persons of Hispanic or Latino descent were categorized as a separate racial group independent from non-Hispanic whites, non-Hispanic blacks or African Americans, non-Hispanic Asians or Pacific Islanders, and non-Hispanic American Indians or Alaskan Natives.

Between 2007 and 2017, South Dakota had the largest jump in the firearm death rate, with an increase of over 91 percent.

By contrast, New York, California, and the District of Columbia all had decreases in the firearm death rate over this time period.

Overall, the states with the highest increases in firearm fatalities from 2007 to 2017 are located in the North, with states like New Hampshire, South Dakota, Montana, and Maine all experiencing increases over 50 percent.

Percent change in gun-related fatalities by state

In addition, some demographics are more adversely affected by gun violence than others. Specifically, African Americans suffer the highest firearm fatality rate at 23.2 deaths per 100,000, nearly double the national rate.

At a more granular level, African Americans are the most impacted racial group in 35 states. Conversely, Asians and Hispanics are the least likely groups to be victims of gun violence.

Firearm fatalities by race in US

With three out of every 10 Americans owning a firearm, gun culture is still deeply ingrained in American society. High levels of gun ownership, as well as partisan divides, have made legislative action difficult in curtailing the rising number of gun-related deaths.

However, data from Pew Research shows that strong majorities of both gun owners and non-owners support certain policies to prevent gun violence. In particular, both gun owners and non-owners support limiting gun access for people with mental illnesses and individuals who are on the federal no-fly or watch lists.

Furthermore, most gun owners and non-owners support background checks for gun purchases made through private sales and at gun shows. Ultimately, thwarting gun violence will likely require cultural and legislative changes at the local, state, and national level.

Complete Study Results

StateFirearm Death RatePercent ChangeFirearms Deaths: 2017Most Common CauseRace Most ImpactedCounty Most ImpactedRank
HI2.50.0%39SuicideWhite, Not Hispanic or LatinoNA51
NY3.7-27.5%772SuicideBlack or African American, Not Hispanic or LatinoErie County (7.6 per 100k)50
MA3.72.8%262SuicideBlack or African American, Not Hispanic or LatinoHampden County (8.6 per 100k)49
RI3.914.7%43SuicideWhite, Not Hispanic or LatinoProvidence County (4.1 per 100k)48
CT5.124.4%188SuicideBlack or African American, Not Hispanic or LatinoHartford County (6.3 per 100k)47
NJ5.31.9%478HomicideBlack or African American, Not Hispanic or LatinoEssex County (12.1 per 100k)46
CA7.9-11.2%3184SuicideBlack or African American, Not Hispanic or LatinoMendocino County (21.3 per 100k)45
MN8.226.2%465SuicideBlack or African American, Not Hispanic or LatinoRamsey County (9.7 per 100k)44
NE8.35.1%160SuicideWhite, Not Hispanic or LatinoDouglas County (8.5 per 100k)43
IA980.0%293SuicideBlack or African American, Not Hispanic or LatinoPolk County (10.5 per 100k)42
NH10.485.7%146SuicideWhite, Not Hispanic or LatinoRockingham County (11 per 100k)41
WI10.623.3%624SuicideBlack or African American, Not Hispanic or LatinoMilwaukee County (19.2 per 100k)40
WI11.133.7%849SuicideBlack or African American, Not Hispanic or LatinoLewis County (25.1 per 100k)39
MI11.32.7%1138SuicideBlack or African American, Not Hispanic or LatinoWayne County (19.7 per 100k)38
VT11.742.7%70SuicideWhite, Not Hispanic or LatinoNA37
ME11.753.9%172SuicideWhite, Not Hispanic or LatinoKennebec County (15.8 per 100k)36
DE11.731.5%111HomicideBlack or African American, Not Hispanic or LatinoNew Castle County (12.4 per 100k)35
VA11.914.4%1041SuicideBlack or African American, Not Hispanic or LatinoRoanoke city (23.3 per 100k)34
SD11.991.9%101SuicideWhite, Not Hispanic or LatinoMinnehaha County (13.6 per 100k)33
OR12.122.2%528SuicideWhite, Not Hispanic or LatinoKlamath County (31.5 per 100k)32
IL12.149.4%1543HomicideBlack or African American, Not Hispanic or LatinoSt. Clair County (27.6 per 100k)31
MD12.31.7%742HomicideBlack or African American, Not Hispanic or LatinoBaltimore city (42.6 per 100k)30
TX12.413.8%3513SuicideBlack or African American, Not Hispanic or LatinoWilson County (54.3 per 100k)29
FL12.42.5%2724SuicideBlack or African American, Not Hispanic or LatinoHighlands County (21.7 per 100k)28
PA12.519.0%1636SuicideBlack or African American, Not Hispanic or LatinoCambria County (21.3 per 100k)27
DC13.1-39.4%100HomicideBlack or African American, Not Hispanic or LatinoDistrict of Columbia (13.1 per 100k)26
ND13.257.1%103SuicideWhite, Not Hispanic or LatinoNA25
CO13.428.8%779SuicideBlack or African American, Not Hispanic or LatinoPueblo County (21.8 per 100k)24
OH13.742.7%1589SuicideBlack or African American, Not Hispanic or LatinoTrumbull County (22.7 per 100k)23
NC13.712.3%1430SuicideBlack or African American, Not Hispanic or LatinoSurry County (31.6 per 100k)22
UT1430.8%410SuicideWhite, Not Hispanic or LatinoWashington County (18.1 per 100k)21
IN15.345.7%1016SuicideBlack or African American, Not Hispanic or LatinoMarion County (23.1 per 100k)20
GA15.414.1%1623SuicideBlack or African American, Not Hispanic or LatinoMuscogee County (29.6 per 100k)19
AZ15.82.6%1134SuicideBlack or African American, Not Hispanic or LatinoNavajo County (31.7 per 100k)18
KS1653.8%466SuicideBlack or African American, Not Hispanic or LatinoWyandotte County (28.5 per 100k)17
KY16.214.1%730SuicideBlack or African American, Not Hispanic or LatinoJefferson County (21 per 100k)16
ID16.429.1%280SuicideWhite, Not Hispanic or LatinoBannock County (26.4 per 100k)15
NV16.75.0%508SuicideBlack or African American, Not Hispanic or LatinoTie: Washoe County, Clark County (16.4 per 100k)14
OK17.230.3%681SuicideBlack or African American, Not Hispanic or LatinoComanche County (20.4 per 100k)13
SC17.735.1%893SuicideBlack or African American, Not Hispanic or LatinoDarlington County (37.9 per 100k)12
TN18.424.3%1246SuicideBlack or African American, Not Hispanic or LatinoShelby County (26.6 per 100k)11
NM18.524.2%394SuicideWhite, Not Hispanic or LatinoOtero County (30.2 per 100k)10
WV18.631.9%348SuicideWhite, Not Hispanic or LatinoMercer County (30.1 per 100k)9
WY18.827.9%113SuicideWhite, Not Hispanic or LatinoLaramie County (20.8 per 100k)8
AR20.334.4%613SuicideBlack or African American, Not Hispanic or LatinoJefferson County (49.9 per 100k)7
MO21.568.0%1307SuicideBlack or African American, Not Hispanic or LatinoSt. Louis city (56.8 per 100k)6
MS21.517.5%632Tie: Homicide, SuicideBlack or African American, Not Hispanic or LatinoWashington County (46.5 per 100k)5
LA21.79.0%1008HomicideBlack or African American, Not Hispanic or LatinoOrleans Parish (38.2 per 100k)4
MT22.564.2%244SuicideWhite, Not Hispanic or LatinoCascade County (24.6 per 100k)3
AL22.932.4%1124SuicideBlack or African American, Not Hispanic or LatinoTie: Talladega County, Russell County (34.2 per 100k)2
AK24.535.4%180SuicideAmerican Indian or Alaska Native, Not Hispanic or LatinoAnchorage Borough (24.6 per 100k)1
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References

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/
  2. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/10/22/facts-about-guns-in-united-states/
  3. https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2017/06/22/americas-complex-relationship-with-guns/

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