States with weak gun laws lead the nation in gun suicides

Data for 2016 reveals that states with weak gun violence prevention laws and higher rates of gun ownership have the highest gun suicide rates in the nation.

That findin g comes from a Violence Policy Center (VPC) analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

In addition, states with the lowest gun suicide rates have lower rates of gun ownership and some of the strongest gun violence prevention laws in the nation.

The VPC analysis refers to gun suicide rates in 2016, the most recent year for which data is available.

For a list of gun suicide rates in all 50 states, see

The state with the highest per capita gun suicide rate in 2016 was Montana, followed by Alaska. Each of these states has extremely lax gun violence prevention laws as well as a higher rate of gun ownership. The state with the lowest gun suicide rate in the nation was New Jersey, followed by Massachusetts. Each of these states has strong gun violence prevention laws and a lower rate of gun ownership.

The total number of Americans killed in gun suicides increased to 22,938 in 2016 from 22,018 in 2015. The nationwide gun suicide rate in 2016 was 7.10 per 100,000, an increase of 3.5 percent from 2015’s gun suicide rate of 6.86 per 100,000.

VPC Legislative Director Kristen Rand states, “In many of these states, residents would be shocked to learn that they have the highest gun suicide rates in the nation, the most common type of gun death we see across America. Firearms are the key factor in whether a suicide attempt is completed or not. Reducing access to firearms is a critical step in addressing this clear public health threat.”

According to the VPC’s updated Guns and Suicide fact sheet (, in 2016 there were 44,965 suicides in the United States: 123 suicides per day; one suicide every 11.7 minutes. A firearm was used in more than half (51 percent) of the 44,965 deaths. For middle-aged adults, the suicide rate is increasing. From 1999 to 2016, the suicide rate for men aged 35 to 64 increased 30.9 percent. For women in that age group the rate increased 52.8 percent

State gun suicide rates are calculated by dividing the number of gun suicide deaths by the total state population and multiplying the result by 100,000 to obtain the rate per 100,000, which is the standard and accepted method for comparing fatal levels of gun violence.

The VPC defined states with “weak” gun violence prevention laws as those that add little or nothing to federal law and have permissive laws governing the open or concealed carrying of firearms in public. States with “strong” gun violence prevention laws were 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.

State gun ownership rates were obtained from the October 2014 American Journal of Public Health article by Michael Siegel et al., “The Relationship Between Gun Ownership and Stranger and Nonstranger Firearm Homicide Rates in the United States, 1981-2010,” which is the most recent comprehensive published data available on state gun ownership.

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