Special Report

The 10 States With the Worst Gun Violence

4. Alabama
> Firearm deaths per 100,000 people:
16.8 per 100,000
> Total firearm deaths 2005-2014: 8,730 (16th highest)
> Violent crime rate: 427.4 per 100,000 (12th highest)
> Permit required to carry handgun: Yes
> Poverty rate: 19.3% (4th highest)

There is a strong correlation between gun violence and poverty. How exactly financial distress can lead to violent behavior is far from clear, but research has shown the two factors feed off each other in something of a vicious cycle. For instance, exposure to violence frequently causes anxiety and hinders cognitive functioning, both of which — for children in particular — can limit chances of success in life. Nearly one in every five people in Alabama live in poverty, a higher poverty rate than in all but a handful of states. The state’s gun fatality rate is fourth highest.

In addition to one of the nation’s highest gun fatality rates, Alabama also has one of the highest gun-ownership rates. Nearly half of adults in the state own a gun, third highest in the South and among the highest rates of any state.

3. Mississippi
> Firearm deaths per 100,000 people:
18.3 per 100,000
> Total firearm deaths 2005-2014: 5,603 (24th highest)
> Violent crime rate: 278.5 per 100,000 (17th lowest)
> Permit required to carry handgun: No
> Poverty rate: 21.5% (the highest)

Nationwide, suicides account for far more gun deaths than murders. Mississippi, however, is one of the few states where the number of homicides in 2014, at 259, exceeded the number of suicide gun deaths, at 251. The relatively high homicide rate in Mississippi is likely partially the result of the state’s nation-leading poverty rate of 21.5%. Not only is the likelihood of gun violence higher among financially unstable households, but also experiencing gun violence itself can lead to family instability, anxiety, and lowered cognitive functioning in children.

Black Mississippians make up nearly 40% of the state’s population. African Americans are far more likely than white Americans to live in poverty. Also, while suicides make up the vast majority of gun deaths among white people, homicides are by far the most common form of gun death among black Americans.

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