Whenever we experience one of those mass shootings that, for some reason, only ever seem to happen in this country, the gun fetishists trot out the fact that large American municipalities with strict gun control laws often have high rates of gun fatalities.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott—who, let’s not forget, once tried to blame the failure of his state’s power grid on a mutant race of chaotic-evil intergalactic space raccoons—is one of these disingenuous fellows. (Wait, no. That doesn’t make sense. He actually blamed it on wind turbines and solar energy. Wait, that makes even less sense. Did someone spike my coffee with bath salts, or am I just reading things Republicans say out loud in public again?)
After the recent shooting in—checks Excel spreadsheet—Uvalde, Texas, Abbott whatabouted the tragedy, noting the number of gun deaths cities like Chicago see every year: “I hate to say this, but there are more people who were shot every weekend in Chicago than there are in schools in Texas,” he said.
While, yes, it’s true that Chicago has a gun problem—like most of the rest of the country. But in general, guns are a far bigger problem in some areas of the country—like, erm, Texas—than in others.
Following the Uvalde massacre, CNN took a look at individual states’ gun death rates, and one thing stood out: States with lots of guns tend to have lots of gun deaths.
Here’s the rate of gun deaths per 100,000 residents in the states that are most affected by gun violence, according to CNN:
- Mississippi: 28.6
- Louisiana: 26.3
- Wyoming: 25.9
- Missouri: 23.9
- Alabama: 23.6
- Alaska: 23.5
And here are those states’ rates of gun ownership, defined by the percentage of adults who live in a household with at least one gun:
- Mississippi: 50%
- Louisiana: 48%
- Wyoming: 59%
- Missouri: 48%
- Alabama: 50%
- Alaska: 59%
Meanwhile, here are the comparable numbers for the states least affected by gun violence:
- Hawaii: 3.4 deaths per 100,000 residents (8% live in a household with a gun)
- Massachusetts: 3.7 (10%)
- New Jersey: 5 (8%)
- Rhode Island: 5.1 (11%)
- New York: 5.3 (14%)
Those are stark numbers—and particularly instructive is Hawaii’s example. After all, it’s enacted stricter anti-gun measures than most states, and the Aloha State doesn’t have to worry nearly as much about guns streaming in from areas with lax gun laws. Because it’s an island, surrounded by water. Big water. Ocean water.
According to Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun violence prevention advocacy group, Hawaii has the second-strongest gun control laws in the union, after California (whose gun death rate is less than a third of Mississippi’s).
So it’s important to compare apples and oranges—or pineapples and oranges, as it were. Chicago is a big city, but for all intents and purposes, it’s bordered by relatively gun-friendly Wisconsin and Indiana. And as much as I’d like to put moats around all the blue states to keep guns and Kid Rock and seven-layer mayonnaise-based salads out, that’s just not realistic.
So maybe instead of a patchwork of gun laws, we could all follow Hawaii’s example and settle on the ones that really work. But before we do any of that, we’ll need to enact far stricter Republican control.
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