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Study: States with weak gun laws tied to increased gun deaths
02:06 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

A study published in January by a leading non-profit organization that focuses on gun violence prevention found that there is a direct correlation in states with weaker gun laws and higher rates of gun deaths, including homicides, suicides and accidental killings.

The study by Everytown for Gun Safety determined that California had the strongest gun laws in the country. Hawaii topped the list with the lowest rate of gun deaths in the country while Mississippi led the country with both the weakest gun laws and highest rate of gun deaths.

“What this project does, is show what we’ve been saying for years: Gun laws save lives,” said Nick Suplina, senior vice president of law and policy at Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund. “We think this is going to be a really important tool for lawmakers, reporters and advocates that have been looking for the kind of visual tool that can make that case clearly.”

The findings of the study have come into sharp focus following a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday, in which 19 children and two teachers were killed. Officials told CNN that the gunman legally purchased two assault rifles for his 18th birthday.

Texas has steadily loosened restrictions on gun ownership over the past several years. Last September, legislation went into effect allowing most Texans who legally own a firearm to carry it openly in public without obtaining a permit or training. Texas is ranked 34 out of 50 states in Everytown’s gun law strength ranking.

To compile its list, the group used data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, looked at each state’s rate of gun deaths in 2020 and compared those rates with 50 policies that they say are scientifically proven to be effective in preventing gun violence, Suplina said.

The research team then weighed the list of gun safety policies based on their efficacy, ranked each state on its implementation of those policies and compared that score with the rates of gun deaths in each state, he said.

The CDC’s data includes homicides, accidental killings and suicides committed by guns. According to the CDC, over 45,000 people in the United States were killed with a firearm in 2020 – more than half died by suicide.

The analysis, first reported by CNN, put California at the top of the list for gun law strength – a composite score of 84.5 out of 100, with a low rate of 8.5 gun deaths per 100,000 residents, and below the national average of 13.6. Hawaii has the lowest rate of gun deaths in the country with the second strongest gun law score. It also has the lowest rate of gun ownership, with firearms in 9% of households, the data shows.

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“I have seen firsthand in California that the work we have done to strengthen gun laws has been both life-saving and effective,” said Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA), chair of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. “Gun laws work, and we need them across the board to ensure that felons, domestic abusers, and those with mental health issues can’t simply go to the next state over to circumvent the very laws meant to keep guns out of their hands.”

CNN reached out to the National Rifle Association (NRA) to comment on the research before it was first published in January, but it declined to do so before seeing the data.

Mississippi has the weakest gun laws with a score of 3 out of 100 and has a rate of 28.6 gun deaths per 100,000 residents – the highest of all states, the research shows.

Massachusetts has adopted 37 of the 50 policies and has the second-lowest rate of gun deaths, while Missouri has only eight of the gun safety policies and the fourth highest rate of gun deaths in the US. Louisiana and Wyoming are among the top five states with the highest gun deaths and the weakest gun safety laws.

“Lawmakers in the states at the bottom can’t pretend to be ignorant about the importance of gun laws after looking at this report,” said Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action, which has been fighting for gun safety measures since the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut that killed 20 children and six educators.

Mother and activist DeAndra Dycus said the gun violence problem in Indianapolis is “tearing our community apart.”

Nearly eight years ago, her 13-year-old son, DeAndre “Dre” Knox, was shot in the back left side of his head at a birthday party in Indianapolis when shots were fired during a confrontation between two boys. DeAndre, now 21, survived after being on life support for several days, Dycus said, and he currently lives in a facility with non-verbal quadriplegic paralysis.

“As a mother, when I look at him, I see everything that was taken away,” Dycus said. “My son was a dreamer. He was a scholar. He was on this road to being something great.”

“But on the flip side, I see this little boy who has made such an impact, not just on our city but our country, as it pertains to what it looks like to survive,” she said. “Dre has embodied that.”