Texas, guns, and stats
MAY 8, 2023
Public health touches all aspects of our lives, not just during a pandemic and not just with infectious diseases. Thanks to your feedback, this newsletter will continue with COVID updates and address other public health topics, too.
There was, yet another, horrific mass shooting in the U.S. this weekend. In Texas. This time at a shopping mall that I’ve been to many times with my daughters. And some of our police officer friends responded. This one hit close to home.
Social media chatter has suggested that it sure feels like Texas has had a lot of mass shootings lately. Out of curiosity, I pulled a few firearm stats.
Texas does have a lot of mass shootings
Since 1966, there have been 34 mass shootings in Texas. This makes Texas the #2 state for mass shootings, following California. Mass shootings have accelerated in recent years (14 Texas mass shootings in the past 10 years). However, it’s hard to know if this is a faster rate than the rest of the country. Statistical precision is tough given the limited number of events.
After adjusting for population, Texas ranks #14. (Alaska is #1 and California is #12). Texas mass shootings are very deadly—four of the ten most deadly mass shootings have occurred there.
Location of mass shootings since 2009. States are colored based on how many have occurred in them. Circles are sized by the number of people killed in each shooting. Source here
Although it’s impossible to see in the map above, there are underlying correlations with gun laws. A peer-reviewed study found that states with more restrictive laws have a reduced rate of mass shootings.
Firearm deaths more broadly
Beyond mass shootings, Texas firearm deaths overall are not much higher than the national average (3% higher). The deadliest state was Mississippi.
When we highlight states with permissive and restrictive laws, the pattern is dramatic and, quite frankly, unsurprising. States with more permissive laws have more firearm deaths.
Green=Top 15 states with most restrictive firearm policies; Red=Top 15 states with most permissive firearm policies. Rankings from BMJ 2019;364:l542 here.
The relative rate of firearm deaths in Texas hasn’t changed over time. In other words, Texas has followed the national and other state trends pretty closely.
This trend will be interesting to follow prospectively, though. In 2021, Texas passed an open carry law. Among the limited research, we see that this leads to increased deaths:
A policy analysis by RAND Corporation found states that changed to open carry should expect their firearm death rates to increase by 3%.
Another study found the rate of assaults with firearms increased 9.5% relative to forecasted trends in the first decade after 34 states relaxed restrictions on civilians carrying concealed firearms in public.
There are a lot of guns in Texas
Texas has the most registered guns in the nation (~550,000). After adjusting for population, Texas ranks #15. Wyoming, by far, takes the cake for the most per capita.
A slightly different metric is the number of households with guns. In Texas, 1 in 3 households have firearms. Montana is the leader.
Percentage of households owning a gun. Data from RAND; Figure from Wisevoter.
Texas is a bit middle of the road with the epidemiology firearms and deaths. I was surprised. There’s nothing particularly profound to mark the 199th mass shooting this year, which is incredibly sobering. We need to stop sluggishly meandering towards solutions and instead run towards them. This epidemic is out of control.
In case you missed it:
Mass shootings: It’s hard to explain (and fix) evil
Epidemiology of Mass Shootings
We can reduce gun violence in the U.S.
“Your Local Epidemiologist (YLE)” is written by Dr. Katelyn Jetelina, MPH PhD—an epidemiologist, data scientist, wife, and mom of two little girls. During the day she works at a nonpartisan health policy think tank and is a senior scientific consultant to a number of organizations, including the CDC. At night she writes this newsletter. Her main goal is to “translate” the ever-evolving public health science so that people will be well equipped to make evidence-based decisions. This newsletter is free thanks to the generous support of fellow YLE community members.