In a major public health win, newly available federal data shows that Massachusetts has the lowest gun-related mortality rate in the country, a victory likely tied to legislative successes.
The CDC data, cited Tuesday in a Violence Policy Center (VPC) report, puts Massachusetts’ 2015 rate at 3.13 gun-related deaths per 100,000 residents. The next lowest rate, seen in Hawaii, was 3.84 deaths per 100,000 residents.
The bad news, however, is that gun deaths are up 7 percent nationwide, totaling 36,252 in 2015. The national gun-related death rate is 11.28 per 100,000 people, led by states including Alaska (a staggering 23.97 deaths per 100,000 residents), Louisiana (20.38), and Montana (19.85).
“The evidence could not be more compelling that states with fewer guns and strong gun laws have far lower rates of gun death,” VPC Legislative Director Kristen Rand wrote in a statement. “The spike in firearm homicide should be of great concern to all Americans. Gun violence is a major public health threat that demands immediate attention from policymakers nationwide.”
Local policymakers have been particularly attuned to the issue. In 2014, the state enacted a law that strengthened gun control across the board, setting forth more rigorous standards for acquiring firearms. In 2014, the year the new legislation went into effect, Massachusetts suffered 3.37 gun-related deaths per 100,000 residents, according to VPC data from 2016.
Attorney General Maura Healey has also waged a high-profile battle with manufacturers and retailers of “copy cat” assault weapons.
The public health community has been vocal on this topic as well. Boston University School of Public Health Dean Sandro Galea identified firearm control as crucial step to a healthier country in an October dean’s note, and the school launched a video campaign called “After Orlando: Will We Say Enough?” following the Pulse nightclub shooting. Meanwhile, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has a dedicated Injury Control Research Center that deals regularly with gun control.
Gun ownership in the Commonwealth is also fairly rare, the VPC report says. Only 14.3 percent of households possess a gun, a number dwarfed by states like Montana, where 67.5 percent of households have a gun.
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