Wyoming Has the Fourth-Highest Gun Death Rate in the Country
Just two days after another school shooting took place, this time at Michigan State University, the Violence Policy Center has published a report with new data from the CDC that states that Wyoming has the fourth-highest gun death rate in the nation.
That's according to a press release from the VPC, which states that "States with the lowest rates of overall gun death in the nation are those with strong gun violence prevention laws and low rates of gun ownership."
The report stated that the five states with the highest overall gun death rates, including Wyoming, have weaker gun violence prevention laws and higher rates of gun ownership.
The VPC analysis used 2021 CDC Wonder data and includes gun death rates for 2021, including gun homicides, gun suicides, and unintentional shootings.
Wyoming ranks number 4, after Mississippi, Louisiana, and New Mexico. Interesting to note is that even though Wyoming is ranked fourth, it actually has the highest rate of household gun ownership, with 68.8 percent. Wyoming's gun death rate per 100,000 is 26.78%.
"The increase in Americans killed with guns was driven by both gun homicide and gun suicide in 2021," the VPC wrote. "The number of firearm homicides increased from 19,384 in 2020 to 20,958 in 2021 – an increase of eight percent. Firearm suicide deaths also increased eight percent in 2021 – from 24,292 in 2020 to 26,328 in 2021."
The report noted that the gun death rates were calculated by dividing the number of gun deaths by the total state population, and then multiplying that result by 100,000 to obtain the rate per 100,000. This is the standard and accepted method for comparing fatal levels of gun violence.
“America is facing an unprecedented gun violence crisis," said Kristen Rand, the VPC Director of Government Affairs. "The evidence could not be more compelling that our spiraling gun death rates are driven by exposure to firearms.”
Wyomingites are quick to defend themselves, however.
"Wyoming's got more gun than people," said Doug McNeel, a member of the Wyoming chapter of the 'Friends of the NRA.' "I live in the western part of the state so we don't see a lot of gun violence over in this area. Accidents do happen at times, but people taking care of their firearms and storing them properly usually takes care of that issue. Wyoming does have a lot of guns but for the most part, there are a whole lot less shooting deaths here than in our larger cities, including Chicago, Baltimore, and more. By comparison, it's not that bad."
The VPC disagrees.
"States with strong gun violence prevention laws were defined as those that add significant state regulation that is absent from federal law, such as restricting access to particularly hazardous and deadly types of firearms (for example, assault weapons), setting minimum safety standards for firearms and/or requiring a permit to purchase a firearm, and restrictions on the open and concealed carrying of firearms in public," the VPC wrote. "States with weaker gun violence prevention laws were defined as those that add little or nothing to federal law and have permissive laws governing the open or concealed carrying of firearms in public."
The NRA states that, in Wyoming, no state permit is required to possess a rifle, shotgun, or hand gun. A state permit is also not required to purchase or transfer a rifle, shotgun, or handgun.
Furthermore, the NRA writes, "Wyoming has no law regulating 'assault weapons' or 'large capacity' magazines. It does not regulate or prohibit ammunition by type or caliber. Wyoming law does not prohibit the lawful possession of machine guns – it is lawful to possess, purchase, or sell a machine gun that is legally registered and possessed in compliance with all federal laws and regulations."
The U.S. Concealed Carry Association states that gun owners have to be over the age of 21 and must pass a background check but, other than that, there are very few regulations about owning a gun.
"No permit is needed to purchase a firearm from a private individual, no background check is required, there is no waiting period and there is no firearms registration in the state," the USCCA wrote. "Background checks are required if purchasing a handgun from a Federal Firearms Dealer. However, a Wyoming CFP exempts the holder from the federal requirement of a background check prior to purchase of a firearm."
With the VPC alleging that lower gun laws result in higher death rates, this is an issue that is sure to be greatly debated as to whether Wyoming should have stricter gun laws.