Hawaii, with its strong gun laws and low rate of gun ownership, has the lowest gun death rate in the nation, the Washington D.C.-based gun control group Violence Policy Center said Wednesday.
The islands had a per capita gun death rate of 2.58 per 100,000 people in 2006, according to the center's analysis, based on the most recently available national data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. The national average was 10.3, it said.
Only 9.7 percent of Hawaii households own guns, compared with 45.6 percent in Louisiana, which topped the nation in per capita gun deaths at 19.5, the center said.
Louisiana was followed by Alabama (57.2 percent household gun ownership, 16.9 deaths), Alaska (60.6 percent, 16.3), Mississippi (54.3, 16.3) and Nevada (31.5 percent, 16.2).
What I find interesting is there is no mention made of cities like Washington DC, which also has had, until recently, the most restrictive gun laws in the nation, very low 'legal' gun ownership, yet was has been vying for the title of Murder Capitol of the US.
Other countries with very restrictive gun laws, like the UK and Australia, have found that while gun deaths have gone down, violent death and crime rates have climbed dramatically. The Violence Policy Center appears to have ignored that little statistic. I guess death by other violent means is OK, just not deaths caused by the use of guns.
Here in New Hampshire we have a high gun ownership rate and relatively lax gun laws. We also have a very low murder rate and low violent crime rate. In fact, New Hampshire has an overall crime rate less than half that of Hawaii (25,466 crimes in New Hampshire versus 57,997 in Hawaii in 2006). How does the Violence Policy Center reconcile that? According to crime statistics compiled by New Hampshire law enforcement, there were 13 homicides in the state in 2006. With a state population of 1,314,895, that gives an overall homicide rate of 1.01 deaths per 100,000 people. According to crime statistics collected by Hawaii law enforcement officials, during that same year the number of homicides were 21. With a population of 1,285,498 at the time, that gives a homicide rate of 1.63 deaths per 100,000 people.
Looking at the Violence Policy Center's stats, they claim New Hampshire had a gun death rate of 6.25 per 100,000 people, or 82 gun deaths in 2006. But how many were due to crime, how many due to suicide, how many to accidental discharges, and how many due to hunting accidents, and so on? They don't break that down in any meaningful form.
I also have to ask this question: How many of the gun deaths being counted were the result of a law abiding citizen killing a violent miscreant intent on harming or killing the citizen? Again, they don't bother breaking down that number.
In effect, they're cooking the books, treating gun deaths as if they were a majority of all deaths not due to auto accidents, falls, other misadventures, or natural causes. You don't hear them decrying the number auto deaths, which kill far more people than guns. The national death rate was approximately 15.2 per 100,000 in 2006, with over 44,600 auto-related deaths. That's 50% above the national death rate for gun related deaths. So shouldn't automobiles and truck be as tightly regulated as they want guns to be?
Is this a valid comparison, looking at the two sets of statistics and drawing a conclusion? Of course not. It's no more a valid notion than that being drawn by the Violence Policy Center, that strict gun laws and low gun ownership rates automatically lead to lower gun death rates. They ignore a number of questions, including whether they have counted just legal gun ownership, or all gun ownership, legal or illegal. If they ignore illegal gun ownership, meaning they've ignored guns owned by criminals, then their argument is flawed. It certainly explains the high murder rate in Washington DC, where gun related deaths are high despite low legal gun ownership rates.