Gun violence has become a grim reality of life in the United States. According to data from the Pew Research Center, 44 percent of Americans say that they know someone who has been shot, and another 23 percent report that a gun has been used to threaten or intimidate them or a family member. A September 2019 ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 6 in 10 Americans fear that a mass shooting will occur in their community. And in a March 2018 USA Today/Ipsos poll, 53 percent of young people between the ages of 13 and 17 identified gun violence as a “major worry”—outranking all other concerns listed in the poll.
More than 342,439 people were shot to death in the United States from 2008 through 2017, meaning that a person is killed with a gun in this country every 15 minutes. But the gun violence crisis in the United States is not monolithic; rates of gun violence vary widely from state to state, as does the character of that violence. Some states report relatively low rates of gun-related homicides but high rates of gun-related suicides, while other states have the exact opposite experience. Still others see both or neither trend, meaning overall high or low rates of gun violence across categories. Alaska, Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi rank in the top four for highest rates of gun-related deaths, with rates that are higher than 18 gun deaths per every 100,000 people. In contrast, New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Hawaii are at the other end of the spectrum, with rates lower than five gun deaths per every 100,000 people.