Amid the many high-profile mass shootings of recent years, there has been a familiar and mildly comforting refrain: that despite the awful headlines, gun violence is down from its early 1990s peak. Tragedies like Aurora, Newtown, and San Bernardino are horrific, this line of thinking goes, but the everyday carnage in America — while still extremely high, compared to other Western nations — has receded.
New data from the State Firearm Laws project shows that the reality is a little more complicated. Though the overall gun-homicide rate is indeed down over the last 25 years — and in some places down significantly — it actually ticked upward in 10 states, including New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
And the picture for suicides, which constitute the majority of gun deaths, is even grimmer, with 20 states reporting increases between 1991 and 2016.
The State Firearms Law project, carried out by researchers at Boston University’s School of Public Health, tracks the number of gun regulations a state has adopted, including policies on concealed-carry permits, assault rifles, and domestic violence. It doesn’t attempt to assess which ones may be more or less effective than others in bringing down the homicide rate.
California has the most laws on the books, with 104, and Alaska, Idaho, and Montana have the fewest, with four. The average number of gun laws per state is 27.
The statistics show what appears to be a strong correlation between the quantity of gun regulations in a state and a lower rate of gun violence, particularly suicides.
The states with the lowest gun-suicide rates, which include Massachusetts, Connecticut, California, and Rhode Island, have all imposed far stricter rules than average. Massachusetts is home to the second-most regulations in the country — 100 out of a possible 121 — and boasts the lowest gun-suicide rate of any…