Three of the five deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history occurred within the last three years. In light of the recent surge, it can be easy to assume that violence is a growing problem in the United States.
However, by several measures, the United States is actually less violent than it has been in recent decades. Since peaking in 1991, the violent crime rate has fallen to lows not seen in nearly half a century. Similarly, the U.S. murder rate is almost half of what it was at its peak in 1980.
Still, crime rates are only one measure of violence in American society. According to the think tank Institute for Economics and Peace, gun ownership and incarceration are good indicators the prevalence of violence. If the United States was a more peaceful place, there would be less need for handguns — which are typically purchased for personal protection — and there would be less need for the state to use violence against citizens in the form of arrest and incarceration.
24/7 Wall St. identified the most and least violent states in the country based on an index of each state’s murder rate, its violent crime rate excluding murder, small arms ownership, and incarceration rates.
More violent states are often home to a less educated population that tends to face greater economic hardship. Geographically, many of the most violent states are in the South, while the least violent states are overwhelmingly in the Northeast.