In his statements on the Umpqua Community College shootings (video), President Obama said

We know that states with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths.

I'm interested to know how strong the evidence is for this.

  • Yes, see Australia and their bans on certain guns.
    – PmanAce
    Commented Oct 5, 2015 at 4:25
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    The answer is "no" (as far as US states are concerned): The gun control that works: no guns. Stronger or leaner gun control laws in individual US states are irrelevant, due to the ease of crossing state borders (for both humans and guns). The only gun control laws that can work to lower gun deaths are European-style laws: "Strict laws involve having no guns." Even the strictest US gun laws still involve a lot of guns...
    – landroni
    Commented Oct 5, 2015 at 7:51
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    @landroni: the question isn't "do gun controls prevent gun deaths?". The question is, "does the variation in gun deaths among US states correlate with the variation in gun controls?". Despite your argument about borders, there is in fact a variation in gun deaths among US states. The claim under investigation is probably ambiguous ("most laws" I expect is intended by Obama to mean "most restrictive laws", rather then "greatest number of laws" or "most words of laws"), but however that sentence is interpreted, the question's not about the rest of Obama's speech. Commented Oct 5, 2015 at 10:37
  • It's not only gun control that affects the gun homicide rate, it's a lot of factors. Some are intangibles, some are not. One large thing is that, while guns are hard to come by in California, I can walk over to Nevada or Arizona and buy whatever I please.
    – Hellreaver
    Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 9:47
  • @landroni Guns in circulation will stay in circulation. A total ban of guns would most likely see an increase in crime, slowly dwindling over time.
    – Hellreaver
    Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 9:50

1 Answer 1


In the Atlantic article The States With The Most Gun Laws See The Fewest Gun-Related Deaths, originally published in The National Journal, a chart is presented that shows gun related deaths compared to key gun laws (not republished here due to copyright).

There does appear to be a correlation between gun restrictions and gun deaths, with the top 6 states with the lowest gun related deaths (HI, MA, NY, CT, RI, NJ) have markedly more restrictive gun laws than the top 6 states with the highest gun related deaths (AK, LA, MS, AL, AR, WY).

That's not to say, however, that other socioeconomic factors aren't at play; living in Alaska, or example, is much different than living in Hawaii. And the states reporting higher gun deaths tend to be poorer than the states reporting lower gun deaths.

The author writes:

While it's cer­tainly true that a num­ber of factors con­trib­ute to the high rates of gun vi­ol­ence in the U.S., a com­par­is­on of state laws versus rates of shoot­ing deaths does show a cor­rel­a­tion. The states that im­pose the most re­stric­tions on gun users also have the low­est rates of gun-re­lated deaths, while states with few­er reg­u­la­tions typ­ic­ally have a much high­er death rate from guns.

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    Does that study make a distinction between gun-crime-rlated deaths (murders, robbery gone bad, etc.) and accidental or hunting-related gun deaths? It seems that that could explain the higher rates at least in such states as Alaska and Wyoming, where there is much more hunting activity. Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 17:54
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    From the article: The table that fol­lows uses data on all gun-re­lated deaths—hom­icides, sui­cides, ac­ci­dent­al deaths, and leg­al in­ter­ven­tions in­volving fire­arms. While it's true that hunting could increase gun deaths, it could also be true that more restrictive gun laws reduce deaths from hunting by making it harder to purchase a gun and/or increasing the amount of training required. There are additional charts in the article that show only homicide gun deaths.
    – Johnny
    Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 18:08
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    @iamnotmaynard The much higher rates in Alaska and Wyoming are almost certainly due to suicide, which is the leading cause of gun-related deaths by a wide margin, if I recall correctly. Wyoming and Alaska have the highest suicide rates, according to CDC.
    – reirab
    Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 20:02
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    It is hard to get reliable data about consequences of gun laws on gun violence because Congress does not want to finance such research. I guess they know what might learn, and they want avoid learning it. Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 21:30
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    @curiousdannii There's an interesting story that suicide rates in the UK dropped after switching away from coal gas (easy access to Carbon Monoxide) ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC478945 ; it gives credence to the idea that suicide rates drop if easy access to suicide means is decreased. (obviously won't completely eliminate it though)
    – CoderTao
    Commented Oct 3, 2015 at 13:53

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