States with fewer firearms owners and stronger gun violence prevention laws have the lowest overall suicide rates in the nation according to an analysis of 2021 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.
Conversely, states with the highest suicide rates have greater numbers of firearm owners and weaker gun violence prevention laws.
In states where elected officials have taken action to pass gun safety laws, fewer people die by gun violence.
A study by Everytown for Gun Safety, a leading non-profit organization that focuses on gun violence prevention, determined that all states should start with a core group of five foundational laws—passing background checks and/or purchase permitting, along with Extreme Risk laws and secure gun storage requirements; and rejecting Stand Your Ground and permitless carry laws.
The study 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.
While each of the top 14 states in the gun law rankings has all five of these policies in place, none of the bottom 14 states maintains any of these critical protections.
The national gun safety landscape has seen states move in opposite directions in recent years.
While all nine states in our “making progress” tier have made significant additions to their firearm laws in recent years—with each adding several points to its gun law score—a whopping 21 states at the other end of the scale have made the dangerous decision to repeal their concealed carry permit requirements since 2014.
The rankings clearly show that gun laws save lives. But no state is an island (except Hawaii), and any state may be vulnerable if its neighbors fail to protect public safety.
That’s how northeastern states with strong laws ended up victims of the infamous “iron pipeline,” the route traffickers use to bring guns up from southeastern states with weak laws.
The evidence tells a simple story about porous borders: Out of all guns showing up at crime scenes after crossing state lines, four out of five come from states that lack good background check laws.
Notable strong law states like Illinois and Maryland remain plagued with high gun violence in their biggest cities—in large part because they’re targeted by traffickers. Indeed an outsized share of likely trafficked crime guns recovered in Illinois begin their journey in states with weak laws.
And Virginia, which had weak gun purchase laws until 2020, has long been the top supplier of crime guns into Maryland.
At the other end of the scale, states like New Hampshire, Vermont, and Rhode Island have unusually low gun death rates compared with their somewhat weaker policies, in part because they are buffered by robust laws among other states in the region.
The tables below list the three states with the three lowest and highest overall suicide rates in 2019 and include for each state its overall suicide rate, gun suicide rate, total number of suicides and gun suicides, percentage of suicides that involved a gun, and household gun ownership rate.
Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey ranked at the bottom of a list showing suicide rates for each states, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, which used population counts from the U.S. Census Bureau and data from the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.
Wyoming was highest with 29.6 suicides per 100,000 individuals, and the state has a gun owners in at least 54 percent of households as well as comparatively lax gun laws.
Suicide is the most common type of gun death in America and the availability of a firearm is a key factor in whether a suicide attempt is successful or not.
The evidence shows there are more suicides where there are more guns.
Understanding the relationship of guns to suicides can help inform effective suicide prevention strategies. The most certain suicide prevention strategy and best way to ensure gun violence reduction is by reducing the availability of deadly firearms.
This table of all 50 states ranked by overall suicide rate appears almost precisely inverse to any list showing the 50 states ranked by strongest gun control laws.
The state with the lowest overall suicide rate in 2019 was New Jersey (8.58 suicides per 100,000 residents) with a gun suicide rate of 1.95 gun suicides per 100,000 residents. New York ranked second lowest (overall suicide rate of 8.76 suicides per 100,000 residents) with a gun suicide rate of 2.34 gun suicides per 100,000 residents.
Massachusetts ranked third lowest (overall suicide rate of 9.39 suicides per 100,000 residents) with a gun suicide rate of 2.06 gun suicides per 100,000 residents. In each of these three states guns were used in 27 percent or fewer of the suicides reported that year and all had a household gun ownership rate below 21 percent.
Compared to the three states with the highest suicide rates, each of these states has stronger gun violence prevention laws.
Hawaii has the lowest rate of gun deaths in the country, the second strongest gun law score, and the lowest rate of gun ownership, with firearms in only 9 percent of households, joining Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island and New York