Univision Noticias logo

These are the states with the most permissive gun laws: their firearm death rates are up to five times higher

In 30 states, weapons can still be bought via private sales without requiring a permit or background check. The easy access to weapons has a direct impact on the suicide rate, which is the main cause of deaths by firearms. Leer en español.
Gun death rate per 100,000 inhabitants (2016)
See suicides
- permissiveness
+ permissiveness
Leniency in access to weapons

Many gun laws regulating the access and carrying of weapons were passed at the state level and can be very different, even between neighboring states.

The lowest death rates were recorded in states that require permits to carry guns and a background check on all gun purchases.

On the other hand, in permissive states weapons can be bought without a background check and can be carried in public. These states have the highest death rates.

In most states, a weapon can be bought from a private seller at gun shows or online without a background check and without the need to register the sale.

Mass shootings account for only a small fraction of gun violence. In the US there are more suicides with firearms than homicides.

Although mass shootings are perhaps the best known cause of gun violence in the US, they account for only 1.2% of deaths. In 2016, 59% of gun deaths were suicides, the highest rate in the world.

38,658

40

Deaths by firearm

30

22,938

20

Suicides by firearm

10

0

1999

2000

2005

2010

2016

38,658

40

Deaths by firearm

30

22,938

20

Suicides by firearm

10

0

1999

2000

2005

2010

2016

38,658

40

Deaths by firearm

30

22,938

20

Suicides by firearm

10

0

1999

2000

2005

2010

2016

Background check

Since 1993, federal law requires a background check for anyone buying weapons, but in 30 states this is not required when the transaction is between individuals, usually online or at gun fairs.

In 30 states weapons can be purchased

without background checks

WA

VT

ME

MT

ND

MN

OR

MA

ID

WI

NY

SD

MI

RI

WY

CT

PA

IA

NJ

NE

NV

OH

IL

UT

IN

DC

WV

CA

CO

VA

KS

MO

KY

NC

TN

OK

AZ

AR

SC

NM

GA

AL

MS

TX

LA

AK

FL

HI

The lowest suicide rates are found in states where background checks are mandatory on all gun purchases.

Rate of suicides with guns

per 100,000 inhabitants

WA

ME

VT

MT

ND

MN

OR

MA

ID

WI

NY

SD

MI

RI

WY

CT

PA

IA

NJ

NE

NV

OH

IL

UT

IN

DC

WV

CA

CO

VA

KS

MO

KY

NC

TN

OK

AZ

AR

SC

NM

GA

AL

MS

TX

LA

AK

FL

HI

0-5

5-10

10-15

15-20

In 30 states weapons can be purchased

without background checks

WA

VT

ME

MT

ND

MN

OR

MA

ID

WI

NY

SD

MI

RI

WY

CT

PA

IA

NJ

NE

NV

OH

IL

UT

IN

DC

WV

CA

CO

VA

KS

MO

KY

NC

TN

OK

AZ

AR

SC

NM

GA

AL

MS

TX

LA

AK

FL

HI

The lowest suicide rates are found in states where background checks are mandatory on all gun purchases.

Rate of suicides with guns

per 100,000 inhabitants

WA

ME

VT

MT

ND

MN

OR

MA

ID

WI

NY

SD

MI

RI

WY

CT

PA

IA

NJ

NE

NV

OH

IL

UT

IN

DC

WV

CA

CO

VA

KS

MO

KY

NC

TN

OK

AZ

AR

SC

NM

GA

AL

MS

TX

LA

AK

FL

HI

0-5

5-10

10-15

15-20

In 30 states weapons can be purchased

without background checks

Rate of suicides with guns

per 100,000 inhabitants

WA

WA

VT

ME

ME

VT

MT

MT

ND

ND

MN

OR

MN

OR

MA

ID

MA

ID

WI

NY

WI

SD

NY

SD

MI

RI

MI

RI

WY

WY

CT

CT

PA

IA

PA

IA

NJ

NE

NJ

NE

NV

OH

NV

OH

IL

UT

IL

IN

UT

IN

DC

DC

WV

CA

WV

CO

CA

CO

VA

KS

VA

MO

KS

MO

KY

KY

NC

NC

TN

TN

OK

OK

AZ

AR

SC

NM

AZ

AR

SC

NM

GA

AL

GA

MS

AL

MS

TX

TX

LA

LA

AK

AK

FL

FL

HI

HI

0-5

5-10

10-15

15-20

The lowest suicide rates are found in states

where background checks are mandatory

on all gun purchases.

Websites such as Armlist operate as a Craiglist for weapons, linking buyers and sellers. Via this online site weapons can be purchased in 30 states without identification or background checks.

What is a background check?

When a buyer goes to a licensed merchant, the FBI or a state authority must be contacted to make sure their name does not appear in a registry of people prohibited from possessing firearms.

In October of 2018

that registry had

18.9 million

names

Buyer

Registry of people

who are prohibited

from buying guns

7.8 million

Inmigrantes indocumentados

5.6 million

judged to have mental

health issues

3.8 million

convicted for serious crimes

1.8 million | others

In October of 2018

that registry had

18.9 million

names

Buyer

Registry of people

who are prohibited

from buying guns

7.8 million

undocumented immigrants

5.6 million

judged to have

mental health issues

3.8 million

convicted for serious crimes

1.8 million | others

In October of 2018

that registry had

18.9 million

names

7.8 million

undocumented immigrants

Buyer

5.6 million

judged to have mental health issues

3.8 million

Registry of people

who are prohibited

from buying guns

convicted for serious crimes

1.8 million | others

However, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) has deficiencies. Some states have passed their own laws but there is no federal process to guarantee that people who are added to the NICS have their weapons taken away, as in cases of domestic violence. In addition, states are not required to report to the FBI when one of their residents falls into one of the categories of people banned from buying weapons.

The authorities have three days to block the sale. If no response is received in that time the sale can proceed.

More weapons than people

The United States is the country with the highest rate of firearms held by civilians in the world. The second country is Yemen.

Russia

12.3 | 100

US

120.5 | 100

Yemen

52.8 | 100

Rate of arms per 100 inhabitants

0-5

5-10

10-30

30-50

50-75

>75

WEAPONS

(in millions)

India

71.1

US

393.3

China

49.7

Pakistan

43.9

Russia

17.6

Compared to countries with larger populations, the United States has 5 times the number of weapons in India and by 8 times the number in China.

POPULATION

(in millions)

India

1,342.5

US

326.5

China

1,388.2

Russia

143.4

Pakistan

196.7

Russia

12.3 | 100

US

120.5 | 100

Yemen

52.8 | 100

Rate of arms per 100 inhabitants

0-5

5-10

10-30

30-50

50-75

>75

WEAPONS

(in millions)

India

71.1

US

393.3

China

49.7

Pakistan

43.9

Russia

17.6

Compared to countries with larger populations, the United States has 5 times the number of weapons in India and by 8 times the number in China.

POPULATION

(in millions)

India

1,342.5

US

326.5

China

1,388.2

Russia

143.4

Pakistan

196.7

Russia

12.3 | 100

US

120.5 | 100

Yemen

52.8 | 100

Rate of arms per 100 inhabitants

0-5

5-10

10-30

30-50

50-75

>75

WEAPONS

(in millions)

POPULATION

(in millions)

India

1,342.5

India

71.1

Compared to countries with larger populations, the United States has 5 times the number of weapons in India and 8 times the number in China.

US

393.3

US

326.5

China

49.7

China

1,388.2

Pakistan

43.9

Russia

17.6

Russia

143.4

Pakistan

196.7

Sources: GunPolicy.org hosted by the Sydney School of Public Health, The University of Sydney; GunsToCarry.com; Ari Freilich, Giffords Law Center; Pew Research Center; Federal Bureau of Investigation; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The main graph shows the states according to their gun death rates and permissiveness towards purchasing and carrying guns (as ranked by the site GunsToCarry.com)