1000 Cities in 50 States: Urban Gun Violence in 3 Maps
Firearm Homicide Rates (FHRs) increased in 42/50 states from 2015-2021, including in states that tightened and loosened gun control laws after deadly mass shootings.
Maps are frequently used to illustrate that Southern and Republican-controlled states have the highest firearm death rates (often suicides are also included, but I only use homicides). That correlation = causation is implied by these maps, especially when it comes to state-level gun laws.
This map shows the average city-level Firearm Homicide Rate (FHR) per 100,000 for all urbanized areas in each state in 2015. Hover over states for exact rates.
Urban Firearm Homicide Rate, 2015
There’s long been more gun violence in the south, midwest, and mid-Atlantic regions, but gun ownership policies and especially changes in state gun laws since Newtown don’t map neatly onto urban homicide trends over time. Here’s a map using 2021 data. This map shows the average city-level Firearm Homicide Rate (FHR) per 100,000 for all urbanized areas in each state in 2021. Hover over states for exact rates,
Urban Firearm Homicide Rate, 2021
By 2021, urban violence was way up in 42/50 US states . This is despite dozens of stricter gun control laws being implemented in states like California, Colorado, Connecticut, and even Florida in the wake of a series of deadly mass shootings. Such laws required universal background checks, banned “ghost guns,” and expanded prohibited possessor rules. Alternatively, some states relaxed gun control laws, especially around permitting, concealed & open carry, and stand your ground laws. Nonetheless, urban violence increased in states that tightened and loosened their gun control laws. This map shows the percent change in the average city-level Firearm Homicide Rate (FHR) for all urbanized areas in each state, from 2015 to 2021.
Urban Firearm Homicide Rate Changes, 2015 vs. 2021
Passing laws is one thing; enforcing them is another. Changing incentives and behavior through thoughtful policy design & implementation is a different thing entirely.
In my small city, most people don’t commit gun violence, but those that do tend to be teenagers using illegally obtained handguns. The assault weapons ban Illinois passed this spring may prevent another mass shooting like the horrific incident that happened on the 4th of July in Highland Park in 2022. But most mass shootings are committed with handguns, and they can easily be outfitted with “glock switches” despite these devices being ultra, 10-years-in-federal-prison illegal.
I’ve lived in households with firearms most of my adult life, but I don’t fetishize guns. I don’t fetishize laws either. Unless the incentives to commit all forms of violence are dramatically reduced by a government that (successfully) claims a monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force, passing more laws won’t reduce gun violence in our communities. I’ll report some state-level examples to illustrate this throughout the coming weeks, especially in states that have enacted the most and strictest gun control laws since Newtown.
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