Gun Deaths and Political PartiesL. David Roper (E-mail: roperld@vt.edu)

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The gun-deaths rate (number of deaths per 1000 people) varies greatly among the states in the United States. (See table at end for 1996 rates.) (These are all gun deaths including assault, suicides and accidents.)

An interesting question to ask is: Is there any correlation between the gun-deaths rate and the strength of the two political parties in the states?

I compared different state's gun-deaths rate (GDR) data for 1996 with the results of the 1996 presidential election for each state. (See table at end for votes in the 1996 election.) A correlation calculation yielded the following:

 Correlation Rate Democrat vote -0.429 Republican vote +0.533

That is, the Democratic votes for the states had a 43% negative correlation with increasing GDR and the Republican votes had a 53% positive correlation. States with high gun-deaths rate vote much more Republican than Democratic and vice versa.

 This is a plot of the gun-deaths rate (GDR) sorted by rank of the states compared to the Democratic votes and the Republican votes. (See table at end for the data.) Also shown are linear fits to the two votes. This shows visually the positive correlation of GDR with the Republican vote and the negative correlation of GDR with the Democratic vote. Note that the eight lowest GDR states are definitely Democratic.

What can one conclude from these results? Whatever factors cause the large disparity for gun-deaths rates between the various states also cause those states to tend to vote Republican. I believe that the main factors are:

• Capitalism rules: Every one should be free to buy whatever guns they wish to have.
• Minimum government: Government is to stay out of the lives of people, including regulating gun ownership.
• Low taxes: Keep the taxes as low as possible, leaving little to pay for gun control projects.

My Republican native state, Oklahoma (rate=0.154), ranked 35 of 50 and my Republican adopted state, Virginia (rate=0.143), ranked 32 of 50 for increasing gun-deaths rate in 1999.

There are various gun regulations in the different states, which can be found at http://www.csgv.org/content/resources/frame_resc_laws.html. A good question to ask is: How do the various regulations correlate with gun deaths? I selected the following five regulation types for such a study:

• Gun registration: I gave a state a 1 score if there is any kind of registration and a 0 otherwise.
• Background check: I gave a state a 1 score if there is any kind of background check other than the federal one and a 0 otherwise.
• Purchasing limit: I gave a state a 1 score if there is any kind of limit on the number of guns purchased at one time and a 0 otherwise.
• Waiting period: I gave a state a 1 score if there is any kind of waiting period and a 0 otherwise.
• Concealed weapon: I gave a state a 1 score if there is a restriction on carrying concealed weapons other than one that anyone but a felon can obtain a permit and a 0 otherwise.

The table of the scores is given in the second table below.

The correlation coefficients are:

 Correlations Registration? Background Check? Purchase Limit? Waiting Period? Concealed Weapons? Deaths/1000 Deaths/1000 -0.276 -0.212 0.084 -0.460 -0.394 Democrat 0.389 0.135 0.063 0.457 0.311 -0.429 Republican -0.338 -0.152 0.058 -0.449 -0.289 0.533

Thus, the most effective regulation (high negative correlations) is having a waiting period for purchases of guns, followed by restrictions on concealed weapons, followed by having gun registration, then followed by having background checks. Having a purchasing limit has a slightly positive correlation. It makes sense that having a waiting period for purchases and restricting concealed weapons would be effective, since both contribute to a cooling-down period when anger motivates someone to shoot someone else.

Note that mostly Democratic states have the effective restrictions (high positive correlations), and that Republican states have negative correlations with the effective restrictions.

 U.S. Gun Deaths 1996 1996 election State Deaths Population Deaths/1000 Democrat Republican Rank Hawaii 45 1184434 0.038 56.9% 31.6% 1 Massachusetts 232 6085393 0.038 61.5% 28.1% 2 New Jersey 381 8009624 0.048 53.7% 35.9% 3 Rhode Island 52 987858 0.053 59.7% 26.8% 4 Connecticut 244 3267030 0.075 52.8% 34.7% 5 New York 1400 18143805 0.077 58.3% 30.0% 6 Minnesota 369 4647723 0.079 51.1% 35.0% 7 New Hampshire 94 1160768 0.081 49.6% 39.6% 8 North Dakota 54 642858 0.084 40.1% 46.9% 9 Iowa 246 2848473 0.086 50.3% 39.9% 10 Ohio 990 11187032 0.088 47.4% 41.0% 11 Vermont 55 586352 0.094 53.4% 31.1% 12 Nebraska 156 1647657 0.095 35.0% 53.7% 13 Wisconsin 494 5173828 0.095 48.8% 38.5% 14 Maine 122 1241436 0.098 51.6% 30.8% 15 Utah 204 2022253 0.101 33.3% 54.4% 16 Pennsylvania 1310 12038008 0.109 49.2% 40.0% 17 Washington 601 5509963 0.109 49.8% 37.3% 18 Delaware 85 727090 0.117 51.8% 36.6% 19 Illinois 1401 11953003 0.117 54.3% 36.8% 20 Kansas 320 2598266 0.123 36.1% 54.3% 21 Michigan 1222 9739184 0.125 51.7% 38.5% 22 California 4004 31780829 0.126 51.1% 38.2% 23 Oregon 415 3195087 0.130 47.2% 39.1% 24 Indiana 785 5834908 0.135 41.6% 47.1% 25 Texas 2564 19006240 0.135 43.8% 48.8% 26 Idaho 162 1187706 0.136 33.6% 52.2% 27 Kentucky 532 3881051 0.137 45.8% 44.9% 28 Colorado 523 3812716 0.137 44.4% 45.8% 29 Florida 2042 14426911 0.142 48.0% 42.3% 30 Maryland 717 5057142 0.142 54.3% 38.3% 31 Virginia 950 6665491 0.143 45.1% 47.1% 32 West Virginia 268 1818983 0.147 51.5% 36.8% 33 South Dakota 109 730699 0.149 43.0% 46.5% 34 Oklahoma 505 3289634 0.154 40.4% 48.3% 35 Missouri 835 5367888 0.156 47.5% 41.2% 36 North Carolina 1162 7307658 0.159 44.0% 48.7% 37 South Carolina 617 3738974 0.165 44.0% 49.8% 38 Georgia 1215 7332225 0.166 45.8% 47.0% 39 Arkansas 423 2504858 0.169 53.7% 36.8% 40 Wyoming 83 480085 0.173 36.8% 49.8% 41 Montana 154 876656 0.176 41.3% 44.1% 42 Tennessee 948 5313576 0.178 48.0% 45.6% 43 Arizona 806 4432308 0.182 46.5% 44.3% 44 New Mexico 318 1706151 0.186 49.2% 41.9% 45 Alabama 844 4290403 0.197 43.2% 50.1% 46 Mississippi 547 2709925 0.202 44.1% 49.2% 47 Alaska 123 604918 0.203 33.3% 50.8% 48 Nevada 365 1596476 0.229 43.9% 42.9% 49 Louisiana 1044 4338763 0.241 52.0% 39.9% 50
 State Gun regulations: State Registration? Background Check? Purchase Limit? Waiting Period? Concealed Weapons? Alabama 0 0 0 1 1 Alaska 0 0 0 0 0 Arizona 0 1 0 0 0 Arkansas 0 0 0 0 0 California 1 1 1 1 1 Colorado 0 1 0 0 0 Connecticut 1 1 0 1 1 Delaware 0 0 0 0 1 Florida 0 1 0 1 0 Georgia 0 1 0 0 0 Hawaii 0 1 0 1 1 Idaho 0 1 0 0 0 Illinois 0 1 0 1 1 Indiana 0 1 0 0 1 Iowa 0 0 0 0 1 Kansas 0 0 0 0 1 Kentucky 0 0 0 0 0 Louisiana 0 0 0 0 0 Maine 0 0 0 0 0 Maryland 1 1 1 1 1 Massachusetts 1 0 0 1 0 Michigan 1 1 0 0 1 Minnesota 0 0 0 1 1 Mississippi 0 0 0 0 0 Missouri 0 0 0 1 1 Montana 0 0 0 0 0 Nebraska 0 1 0 1 1 Nevada 0 1 0 0 0 New Hampshire 0 1 0 0 0 New Jersey 1 0 0 1 1 New Mexico 0 0 0 0 1 New York 1 1 0 1 1 North Carolina 0 0 0 0 0 North Dakota 0 0 0 0 0 Ohio 0 0 0 0 1 Oklahoma 0 0 0 0 0 Oregon 1 1 0 0 0 Pennsylvania 0 1 0 0 0 Rhode Island 0 1 0 1 1 South Carolina 1 0 1 0 0 South Dakota 0 0 0 0 0 Tennessee 0 1 0 0 0 Texas 0 0 0 0 0 Utah 0 1 0 0 0 Vermont 0 1 0 0 0 Virginia 0 1 1 0 0 Washington 0 1 0 1 0 West Virginia 0 0 0 0 0 Wisconsin 0 1 0 1 1 Wyoming 0 0 0 0 0