Terrible tragedies like last week's mass shootings in Tucson cause us to search for deeper answers. Many were quick to blame America's divisive and vitriolic political culture for the violence; others portray the shooter as an unhinged, clinically deranged person with his own unfathomable agenda. Arizona has been ground zero for the battle over immigration. Were the state's political and economic travails a contributing factor? There has been some talk about guns, too. Might tighter gun control laws have made a difference?
With these data in hand, I decided to look at the factors associated with gun deaths at the state level. With the help of my colleague Charlotta Mellander, we charted the statistical correlations between firearm deaths and a variety of psychological, economic, social, and political characteristics of states. As usual, I point out that correlation does not imply causation, but simply points to associations between variables.
Firearm deaths are significantly lower in states with stricter gun control legislation. Though the sample sizes are small, we find substantial negative correlations between firearm deaths and states that ban assault weapons (-.45), require trigger locks (-.42), and mandate safe storage requirements for guns (-.48).