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Francis Wilkinson

Why Do Some States Have More Gun Violence Than Others?

The US rate of homicide by firearm has been rising since 2014, but it has not been uniform nationwide. 

Guns for sale. 

Guns for sale. 

Photographer: ED JONES/AFP

Gun violence has been on the rise in the US. After decreasing by roughly 1% annually from 2006 to 2014, firearm homicide rates increased by 6% from 2014 to 2019. But the increase was far from uniform across the 50 states.

A team of researchers at RAND, led by economist Rosanna Smart, analyzed firearm-related homicides from 2006 through 2019. They found that states with high firearm homicide rates in 2014 also had the largest relative increases in firearm homicides after 2014. The Midwest and South-Central US were regional hot spots, experiencing increases of 75% to 115% after 2014. Missouri had the highest relative increase, followed by Alaska, New Mexico, Kentucky and Alabama. The five states with the lowest relative increases were Connecticut, New York, Nebraska, New Jersey and Massachusetts.