These states have the highest gun death rates in America

Fewer gun laws mean more gun deaths, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence’s annual report card.

So far in 2015, there have been 337 days — and 353 mass shootings.

They’ve taken place in nearly every state across the country, from Massachusetts to Texas, and this week, California, according to, which keeps a running tally of attacks in which four or more people are shot in a single spree.

After one of the most deadly shootings this year — an attack at Oregon’s Umpqua Community College, where a gunman killed nine others and injured seven — President Barack Obama said there was a clear difference between safe and dangerous communities. “States with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths,” he said.

Some say it’s not that simple, arguing homicides and suicides skew studies that analyze gun laws, ownership, mass shootings and deaths. And plenty have argued that correlation is not causation. Others, like the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, say the data support the claim.

The group’s annual report card grades states based on the number of gun deaths per capita as well as the strength of its gun laws and new legislation. States earn points for things like requiring universal background checks, regulating gun dealers and limiting bulk firearm purchases; they lose them for laws that allow concealed weapons in public without a permit or let residents carry guns in bars or schools.

Federal law requires background checks on all guns purchased from a licensed dealer. But how to handle purchases from private sellers —  which make up about 40 percent of all sales, according to a sometimes disputed Department of Justice report — is largely left up to states. There are countless other federal rules and restrictions, most recently outlined in this interactive timeline of gun control legislation from KQED.

In 2014, the most recent year for which ratings were available, 27 states received an F in the center’s analysis.  America Tonight looked at the 10 states with the highest gun death rate and what kind of gun laws they have — or don’t have, according to the 2014 report card.

Gun safety rankings, state by state

The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence grades states each year based on the number of deaths per capita, as well as what kind of gun laws they have — or don't have.

Gun Law Rank State Grade Gun Death Rate Rank
37 Alabama F 5
44 Alaska F 4
48 Arizona F 15
32 Arkansas F 7
1 California A- 42
16 Colorado C- 20
2 Connecticut A- 45
10 Delaware B- 30
32 Florida F 24
27 Georgia F 19
7 Hawaii B+ 49
39 Idaho F 16
8 Illinois B+ 38
23 Indiana D- 23
15 Iowa C- 43
41 Kansas F 17
47 Kentucky F 13
50 Louisiana F 2
24 Maine F 37
4 Maryland A- 33
6 Massachusetts A- 50
14 Michigan C 22
12 Minnesota C 44
48 Mississippi F 3
44 Missouri F 14
39 Montana F 6
21 Nebraska D 36
29 Nevada F 18
22 New Hampshire D- 41
3 New Jersey A- 46
34 New Mexico F 9
5 New York A- 47
29 North Carolina F 25
27 North Dakota F 31
19 Ohio D 27
24 Oklahoma F 8
18 Oregon D+ 28
13 Pennsylvania C 26
9 Rhode Island B+ 48
34 South Carolina F 10
43 South Dakota F 34
34 Tennessee F 11
29 Texas F 29
38 Utah F 21
41 Vermont F 39
20 Virginia D 32
11 Washington B- 35
24 West Virginia F 12
17 Wisconsin C- 40
44 Wyoming F 1

1.    Wyoming

In Wyoming, private sellers don’t have to run background checks on buyers. The state also doesn’t require gun owners to have a license, register their guns or report when firearms are lost or stolen. It doesn’t regulate the sale or ownership of large capacity ammunition magazines or assault weapons. In 2011, Wyoming became the fourth state to allow residents to carry concealed guns in public without a license or permit.

2.    Louisiana

In 2014, the state passed a law that makes it harder for those convicted of domestic abuse and battery to get guns. But in 2013, it also passed a law that blocked schools from getting information about student gun owners. The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence says the state has the weakest gun laws in the country: It doesn’t require background checks for private sellers nor require licenses or permits for firearm owners or sellers. It also doesn’t regulate unsafe guns or ammunition or allow local governments to pass gun legislation. In Louisiana, police don’t have the power to deny permits for concealed handguns.  

3.    Mississippi

Mississippi hasn’t passed any new gun laws in the past two years. It doesn’t require gun owners or firearm dealers to be licensed and doesn’t have any gun registration requirements. The state also doesn’t regulate sales of high-capacity magazines, assault weapons or unsafe guns. Guns originally sold in Mississippi are recovered in crime scenes more often than guns from any other state in the country, according to 2009 data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

4.    Alaska

Alaska was the deadliest state for gun deaths per capita in 2013, according to the scorecard. State law doesn’t require background checks in private sales or licenses for firearms dealers; it doesn’t ban the sale or ownership of assault weapons or high capacity magazines or regulate unsafe guns or ammunition sales. In Alaska, local governments can’t enact their own gun laws. And according to the 2014 scorecard, Alaska sells guns that are later recovered from crime scenes at more than twice the national average. 

5.    Alabama

Alabama doesn’t require residents to register their firearms or limit the number of firearms in a single purchase. Private sellers aren’t required to run background checks on those who purchase their guns. The state also doesn’t ban large-capacity magazines or assault weapons. In 2013, the state passed a law that denied police the right to reject concealed carry permits. A constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2014 allows residents to challenge gun laws under a “strict scrutiny” standard, which the scorecard says makes it easier to reverse restrictions already in place.

6.    Montana

Montana has the sixth highest rate of gun deaths in the country. While Missoula has put forward its own legislation that would require universal background checks for all private sales, the state of Montana doesn’t require it. It also doesn’t have a ban on assault weapons, large capacity ammunition magazines or 50 caliber rifles. There’s no limit on how many firearms residents can purchase at a time; the state also doesn’t require licenses for gun owners or firearms dealers. Guns don’t have to be registered, either.  

7.    Arkansas

Arkansas didn’t pass any new gun laws in 2014. In the past two years, the state has expanded its “shoot first” law and passed legislation that allows guns in bars, colleges and universities, and places of worship and their affiliated schools. Gun owners aren’t required to have licenses and firearms don’t need to be registered. In Arkansas, cities can’t develop their own gun laws.   

8.    Oklahoma

Though Oklahoma got poor marks on the 2014 report card, largely because of legislation that relaxed rules around giving guns to children and allowed guns to be stored in cars parked outside elementary schools, its score could improve next year, according to the LCPGV: In 2014, officials passed a law that requires mental health records to be submitted for background checks.

9.    New Mexico

New Mexico hasn’t passed any new gun laws in the past two years. Like many other states on the list, it doesn’t require background checks for private sales, ban assault rifles or require licenses for gun dealers. It also has no restrictions on gun purchases by residents with a history of domestic abuse.

10. South Carolina

In 2013, South Carolina was ranked No. 11 on the state gun law scorecard. It moved into the top 10 in 2014 largely because of a new law that allows guns in bars, along with newly relaxed restrictions on guns in cars. In 2012, the state did away with laws that required state licenses for gun dealers as well as a design safety standard for handguns. But the state’s score in 2015 could improve: This year, it passed a law that would prevent residents with certain histories of domestic abuse from owning guns.

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