If You Want To Increase Risk of Death By Firearm, Don’t Regulate Guns. Oh, wait, that’s bad…

In 2015, if your children lived in Alaska, they were about 24 times more likely to die from a bullet than if they had lived in Massachusetts. I, personally, would not want my children going about their daily business or attending a movie or concert or college class in any of the states in the top left corner of the graph, above, because I want them to live long, heathy lives and make grandchildren for me so I can have babies to play with. I digress.

To make this graph, I filtered the CDC’s database for cause of death by US State and year. Any death from firearm was included, legal or otherwise, accidental or not, based on the following cause of death codes:

U01.4 (Terrorism involving firearms)

W32 (Handgun discharge)

W33 (Rifle, shotgun and larger firearm discharge)

W34 (Discharge from other and unspecified firearms)

X72 (Intentional self-harm by handgun discharge)

X73 (Intentional self-harm by rifle, shotgun and larger firearm discharge)

X74 (Intentional self-harm by other and unspecified firearm discharge)

X93 (Assault by handgun discharge)

X94 (Assault by rifle, shotgun and larger firearm discharge)

X95 (Assault by other and unspecified firearm discharge)

Y22 (Handgun discharge, undetermined intent)

Y23 (Rifle, shotgun and larger firearm discharge, undetermined intent)

Y24 (Other and unspecified firearm discharge, undetermined intent)

Y35.0 (Legal intervention involving firearm discharge)

I combined these data with state-wise firearm restriction regulation data from the The State Firearm Laws project, which is headquartered at Boston University (hey, my son went to grad school there — Yay!). I was just pointed to an article in JAMA Internal Medicine from 2013 that uses similar data (CDC firearm death data + state firearm law data) to reach similar conclusions. It’s behind a paywall, but you can read the summary.

I did not spend much time on this plot. It ain’t pretty, and not just because of the topic. I have purposefully left out state names and red vs. blue state labels because I wanted to concentrate solely on the two metrics: likelihood of death by bullet & how hard it is to buy a gun. If you are concerned or curious about the laws in your own state, check out the page that allows you to learn more.

R Code for data manipulation and data visualization can be found on my GitHub.

Thank you for reading.

I welcome feedback — you can “clap” with approval or if you have a specific response or question, message me here. I’m also interested in hearing what topics you’d like covered in future posts.

Feel free to contact me via Twitter @jblistman or LinkedIn.


  1. Gun law data: firearm laws across US States from 1991 to 2017 available from https://www.kaggle.com/jboysen/state-firearms
  2. CDC data on cause of death from firearms from 1999 to 2015: https://wonder.cdc.gov/ucd-icd10.html
  3. Data were manipulated and plotted using tools in R