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But do more gun laws necessarily mean fewer gun deaths? Obama asserted as much during his press conference, saying: “We know that states with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths. So the notion that gun laws don’t work, or just will make it harder for law-abiding citizens, and criminals will still get their guns, is not borne out by the evidence.”
Using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, InsideGov mapped out gun deaths by state, per 100,000 people.
The fives states with the most gun deaths per 100,000 people are Alaska (19.6), Louisiana (19.2), Alabama (17.8), Mississippi (17.6) and Wyoming (17.5). Three of those five states – Alaska, Mississippi and Wyoming – are also among the states with the most lax gun laws.
The five states with the fewest number of gun deaths per 100,000 people are Hawaii (2.7), Massachusetts (3.2), New York (4.4), Connecticut (4.5) and Rhode Island (5.3). Of those five states, two are also at the top of the list when it comes to strictness of gun laws: New York and Connecticut.
When connecting the two data sets into one graph, a pattern seems to develop – and that pattern seems to support Obama’s claim that stricter gun laws mean fewer gun-related deaths.
In the above graph, points that are higher up along the Y axis indicate more gun deaths, and points further to the right along the X axis indicate stricter gun laws. The data confirms that, on the whole, stricter gun laws do result in fewer gun deaths.
But some cases run counter to the overall trend. Take California, for example, which sports the highest gun law score at 89. The Golden State has 7.9 deaths per 100,000 – the eighth-lowest in the country. But when consulting an L.A. Times list of the deadliest mass shootings in the U.S., the most instances occurred in California. Nine mass shootings have taken place in California since 1984 (Texas comes in second, with four occurrences).
Although California is among the largest and most populated states, the total number of mass shootings there is an outlier. For example, California’s population is almost two times that of Florida, but Florida has been the site of only one mass shooting in the last 34 years.
While an overall look at the data suggests that stricter gun laws mean fewer gun-related deaths, exceptions like the number of mass shootings in California are important to note. Perhaps more than anything, the California exception shows just how complicated a topic this is for Americans – and shows why finding consensus on appropriate gun legislation continues to be a challenge.
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