The map above charts firearm deaths for the 50 states plus the District of Columbia. Note that these figures include accidental shootings, suicides, even acts of self-defense, as well as crimes. As of 2007, 10.2 out of every 100,000 people were killed by firearms across the United
States, but that rate varies dramatically from state to state. In Hawaii, at the low end, it was 2.6 per 100,000; in New York and New Jersey it was 5.0 and 5.2 respectively. At the high end, 21.7 out of every 100,000 residents of the District of Columbia were killed by guns, 20.2 in Louisiana, 18.5 in Mississippi, and 17.8 in Alaska. Arizona ranked eighth nationally, with 15.1 deaths per 100,000.
With these data in hand, I decided to look at the factors associated with gun deaths at the state level. With the help of my colleague Charlotta Mellander, we charted the statistical correlations between firearm deaths and a variety of psychological, economic, social, and political characteristics of states. As usual, I point out that correlation does not imply causation, but simply points to associations between variables.
The strongest correlator for a high incidence of gun deaths? Having a high incidence of McCain voters. The strongest correlators for a low incidence of gun deaths? High incidences of college graduates and Obama voters.
And yes, this set the right-wing trolls in the comments thread to screeching like vampires caught in the spray from a firehose filled with holy water.
But what about overall murder rates, not just gun deaths? Guess what, the Southern McCain states lead the nation in those, too. So why isn’t there a “CSI: South Carolina”?