FACT CHECK: Does Massachusetts Have The Lowest Rate Of Gun Deaths Nationwide?

Emily Larsen | Fact Check Reporter

Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren said that Massachusetts has the lowest rate of gun deaths in the country.

“Massachusetts has the lowest rate of gun deaths in the county [sic] & can serve as a model for the federal gov’t to develop policies to keep schools safe,” Warren said in a tweet on Aug. 8.

Verdict: True

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that Massachusetts had the lowest statewide rate of firearm deaths in 2016, the latest year for which data is available.

Fact Check:

Warren mentioned her state’s low firearm death rate in a tweet calling attention to a letter that she and Massachusetts Rep. Katherine Clark sent to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

The letter detailed the findings from a nonscientific survey conducted by the offices of the two Massachusetts lawmakers. It found that most of the 384 Massachusetts parents, teachers, students and other stakeholders surveyed believed that gun control measures, including universal background checks and mandatory waiting periods for firearm purchases, would create a safer environment in school.

“Because the Commonwealth of Massachusetts consistently has the lowest rate of gun violence in the United States, Massachusetts teachers, parents, students, and administrators are uniquely positioned to comment on how policymakers can reduce gun violence in schools,” the letter said.

Massachusetts experienced 3.4 firearm deaths per 100,000 people in 2016 – the lowest state rate in the country, according to the CDC. It also had the lowest firearm death rate in 2015 and the third lowest rate in 2014.

Alaska had the highest rate in 2016 at 23.3 firearm deaths per 100,000 people. Nationally, the rate was 11.8.

In addition to homicides, these figures include accidental firearm deaths and suicides. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. gun-related deaths in 2015 were suicides. (RELATED: Are Most Gun Crimes Committed With Handguns?)

A Boston University School of Public Health report on state firearm laws found that Massachusetts had the fourth-lowest rate of firearm homicides and the lowest rate of firearm suicides in 2015 – 1.26 firearm homicides per 100,000 people and 1.59 for firearm suicides.

The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting program reported that there were 132 murders in Massachusetts in 2016, and that 85 of those were committed with firearms.

Some studies have found that states with stricter gun control laws have lower rates of gun deaths, but it is not clear whether the laws themselves are the reason for the lower rates. (RELATED: Do Tighter Gun Control Laws Lead To Fewer Gun-Related Deaths?)

Massachusetts has some of the strictest gun laws in the country. It bans high-capacity magazines and assault-style weapons, for example. The state has 101 gun laws on the books, more than any state except California, according to the State Firearm Laws project at Boston University.

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Published: Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018

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Emily Larsen

Fact Check Reporter