DATA VIZ: Alaska ranks number one in gun death rates

Published: Jan. 10, 2017 at 1:16 PM AKST
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gun death rate

for 2015 was calculated by taking the number of people who died by firearm per each state, dividing by the state's population and then multiplying by 100,000. This produces a crude rate.

Next, an additional step is taken to turn the crude rate into an age-adjusted rate, which means a "standard" population distribution is used to help compare different groups.

Firearm death is inclusive to all people that experienced death by firearm. By definition, both suicide and homicide, by guns, qualify as

firearm deaths


Original Story

Alaska ranked number one in firearm death rates in 2015, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Alaska has one of the highest firearm death rates per capita, according to the CDC. And a study by the Violence Policy Center, an organization that studies gun violence, calculates that Alaska's household gun ownership was at 56.4 percent, in 2015. This positive correlation is often observed when it comes to gun statistics.

The VPC says that in addition to the contributing factor of high gun ownership, the study attributes Alaska’s poor ranking to what it calls "weak" gun violence prevention laws. The VPC also analyzed the newly released data from the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

The factors that contribute to receiving a "weak" rating include “adding little or nothing to federal law” and “permissive laws governing the open or concealed carrying of firearms in public.” This holds true for Alaska, a conceal carry state.

It can become difficult to pinpoint exactly why the gun deaths in Alaska were so high, in 2015. However, the CDC says that out of Alaska's 177 firearm deaths, 123 of them were suicides and 42 of them were a result of homicides.

The correlation also goes the other way when it comes to the states with the lowest gun violence, VPC says. The data indicates that states with low gun ownership also observe low numbers of gun deaths. The two states with the lowest gun violence, Massachusetts and Hawaii, had some of the lowest household gun ownership, at 14.3 percent and 12.5 percent.

These states were likewise determined to have “strong” gun violence prevention laws, similarly defined as those that “add significant state regulation that is absent from federal law, such as restricting access to particularly hazardous and deadly types of firearms (for example, assault weapons), setting minimum safety standards for firearms and/or requiring a permit to purchase a firearm, and restricting the open and concealed carrying of firearms in public.”

CDC's study also indicates a national upward trend for gun violence, from 2014 to 2015. The total number of Americans killed by gunfire increased from 33,599 in 2014, to 36,252 in 2015, the study says.

VPC Legislative Director Kristen Rand says this spike in gun homicides into 2015 “should be of great concern to all Americans.”

“Gun violence is a major public health threat that demands immediate attention from policymakers nationwide,” Rand said.

According to the CDC, the national crude rate of firearm deaths was at 11.28 per 100,000 people in America. While Alaska's crude rate doubles this, at 23.97 per 100,000 people.

In addition to state and national data, the study also collected firearm death statistics on a global scale. America's crude firearm death rate dwarfed the rates of other industrialized nations.

The data shows that the gun death rate in the United Kingdom was 0.22 per 100,000, in 2013. And in Australia, the gun death rate was 0.93 per 100,000, in 2015. In comparison to America, both of these countries have strict gun laws.