Watch CBS News

Study: States With Weaker Gun Laws Have Higher Rates Of Firearm Homicides And Suicides

NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM/CNN) - A new study published January 20 by a leading non-profit organization that focuses on gun violence prevention found that there is a direct correlation in states with weaker gun laws and higher rates of gun deaths, including homicides, suicides and accidental killings.

The study by Everytown for Gun Safety determined that California had the strongest gun laws in the country. Hawaii topped the list with the lowest rate of gun deaths in the country while Mississippi led the country with both the weakest gun laws and highest rate of gun deaths.

"What this project does, is show what we've been saying for years: Gun laws save lives," said Nick Suplina, senior vice president of law and policy at Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund. "We think this is going to be a really important tool for lawmakers, reporters and advocates that have been looking for the kind of visual tool that can make that case clearly."

To compile its list, the group used data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, looked at each state's rate of gun deaths in 2020 and compared those rates with 50 policies that they say are scientifically proven to be effective in preventing gun violence, Suplina said.

The research team then weighed the list of gun safety policies based on their efficacy, ranked each state on its implementation of those policies and compared that score with the rates of gun deaths in each state, he said.

The CDC's data includes homicides, accidental killings and suicides committed by guns. According to the CDC, over 45,000 people in the United States were killed with a firearm in 2020 -- more than half died by suicide.

The analysis put California at the top of the list for gun law strength -- a composite score of 84.5 out of 100, with one of the lowest rates of gun deaths per 100,000 residents, at 8.5 out of 30 and below the national average of 13.6. Hawaii has the lowest rate of gun deaths in the country with the second strongest gun law score. It also has the lowest rate of gun ownership, with firearms in 9% of households, the data shows.

"Lawmakers in the states at the bottom can't pretend to be ignorant about the importance of gun laws after looking at this report," said Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action, which has been fighting for gun safety measures since the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut that killed 20 children and six educators.

Secure Storage Laws Deemed Essential To Gun Safety

Everytown designated a list of five foundational laws that have proven to be the most effective in lowering gun violence rates. These include requirements for a background check and/or permits to purchase handguns; a permit to carry concealed guns in public; the secure storage of firearms; the rejection of 'Stand Your Ground' laws; and the enactment of 'extreme risk' laws that temporarily remove a person's access to firearms when there is evidence that they pose a serious risk to themselves or others, according to Everytown.

Last year, several conservative states -- such as Texas, Iowa, Tennessee, Montana, Utah and Wyoming -- passed legislation allowing some form of permit-less carry as President Joe Biden pushed forward executive actions to address gun violence following several high-profile mass shootings.

In Texas, the controversial "constitutional carry" legislation went into effect in September that allows most Texans who legally own a firearm to carry it openly in public without obtaining a permit or training.

Supporters of the bill have argued that by removing the licensing requirement they are removing an "artificial barrier" to residents' right to bear arms under the Constitution and ensuring more Texans have access to "the protection of themselves or their families" in public. But law enforcement officials and experts have expressed concerns that the open carrying of firearms makes it more difficult for police to quell violence.

"As we've seen gun extremism continue to rise in this country, we've also seen people who open carry start out at marches and rallies and then show up in elected officials' homes, in polling places, statehouses and then on January 6th at the US Capitol," Watts said.

According to Watts, the shooting in a Michigan high school in December that killed four students is a "textbook example" of why laws that require the secure storage of firearms are essential to gun safety.

The alleged gunman in that shooting, 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley, is accused of fatally shooting four classmates and wounding several others on November 30. His parents were charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter in the same incident. All three have pleaded not guilty.

Gun violence overall has risen during the pandemic. More than two-thirds of the country's 40 most populous cities saw more homicides last year than in 2020, and most of them were a result of gun violence, according to a CNN analysis of police department data. For many cities, the elevated rates of homicide continued into 2021.

While experts say the reasons for the rise in homicides are varied, murders are increasingly carried out with guns. The increase in gun violence was underscored in the FBI's 2020 Uniform Crime Report, which stated that about 77% of reported murders in 2020 were committed with a gun, up from 74% in 2019. The agency reported that the number of homicides increased by nearly 30% from 2019, the largest single-year jump the agency has recorded. There is no federal database of gun sales, but other independent surveys have found that gun sales have soared during the COVID-19 pandemic.

(© Copyright 2022 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The CNN Wire™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company contributed to this report.)

EMERGENCY COMPONENT - LOCAL

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.