Statistics can be tricky in the best of situations. But when it comes to gun violence, the numbers can turn the most civil discussion into an argument.
Second Amendment supporters often question the validity of data concerning firearms deaths. They suggest that suicides or accidental killings shouldn’t be lumped in with homicides – and that the rate of gun deaths is more meaningful than the sheer number.
With those ideas in mind, we present an analysis of newly published data on U.S. firearms homicides. No matter how you crunch the numbers, Georgia doesn’t come out looking good.
Georgia recorded 498 deaths from firearms-related homicides in 2015 — more than all but four other states. Adjusted for population, Georgia’s rate of 4.9 deaths per 100,000 residents ranked 13th.
These findings come from the Gun Violence Archive, an online compendium of shootings and firearms-related deaths. The British newspaper the Guardian made the data available to other news organizations and researchers for further analysis.
Homicides by firearms generally occur at a greater rate across the South than in other parts of the United States, especially the Northeast, the Upper Midwest and the Pacific Northwest. Hawaii, where nine people were shot to death in 2015, had the lowest death rate —0.6 per 100,000 residents.
The highest death rate, by far, was in the District of Columbia, where shootings killed 17.7 people per 100,000 residents in 2015. Louisiana followed at a rate of 9.1 deaths per 100,000.
Other states with a higher rate than Georgia were Missouri (7 per 100,000), Alabama (6.9), South Carolina (6.8), Alaska (6.8), Mississippi (6.5), Maryland (6.2), Delaware (5.8), Nevada (5.4), Tennessee (5.1) and Oklahoma (5).
Georgia’s 498 deaths were exceeded only in California (1,034), Texas (962), Florida (675) and Illinois (622).
Georgians are more than twice as likely as New Yorkers to be killed in a shooting. The death rate exceeds even that of Illinois, where Chicago’s epidemic of violence has attracted widespread attention.
Inside Georgia, the most deaths occurred — not surprisingly — in metro Atlanta. The Gun Violence Archive compiled data on 91 deaths in Atlanta, although it isn’t clear whether all fell within the jurisdiction of the city’s police department. Savannah led the rest of the state with 42. (As with other statistics in the study, this number doesn't reflect the number of murders, but rather homicides — that is, the taking of one life by another person.)
Two Georgia shootings in 2015 claimed five victims each. Four people died in two other cases, and three died in six additional shootings.
Those are the numbers. Let the arguing begin.