Insights from the Gun Violence Data Dashboard

By Julianna Caruso

The Rockefeller Institute of Government has updated the Gun Violence in the United States interactive data dashboard, showing statistical information on the realities of gun violence across the nation for the twenty-year period 2000-2020. Using data gathered from the Underlying Cause of Death database maintained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the dashboard’s updated numbers provide insight on acts of deadly gun violence occurring in what has been considered a record-breaking year in gun violence. Given that the year 2021 is on pace to continue the trends seen in 2020 as a year with an unprecedented spike in violent crime, the following breakdown will provide a comparison point for gun violence statistics in the years following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gun Deaths Are at an All-Time High

Across the United States, annual gun deaths rose to a record-breaking 45,222 in 2020. The firearm mortality rate, or the number of firearm-related deaths per 100,000 residents, was 13.6. Last year marked the largest single-year jump in gun deaths seen in the 21st century. This is a 14 percent increase from the 39,707 annual gun deaths in 2019, and a 57.8 percent increase from 28,663 in 2000. The growth seen in 2020 disrupts a four-year period of relative stability in the number of deaths but accelerates an overarching trend of increasing gun deaths seen over the past twenty years. The notable increase in the total number of gun deaths across the United States seen between 2019 and 2020 was largely fueled by a sharp increase in gun-related homicides, with suicide numbers staying relatively constant.

There Has Been Little Change in State Rankings for Gun Deaths

To adjust for differences in population size, we compare the firearm mortality rate across the states. Mississippi, Wyoming, Louisiana, Alaska, and the District of Columbia had the five highest mortality rates in 2020. These five jurisdictions were all among the 10 with the highest firearm mortality rates in 2019 as well.

Jurisdictions With Highest Firearm Mortality Rate (Gun Deaths Per 100,000) in 2020
State Firearm Mortality Rate Rank in 2019
Mississippi 27.57 2
Wyoming 26.45 3
Louisiana 25.47 6
Alaska 23.93 1
District of Columbia 23.43 8

Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and New York had the five lowest firearm mortality rates. While there were shifts in rankings, these five states were also ranked lowest in 2019.

Jurisdictions with Lowest Overall Firearm Mortality Rates in 2020


Firearm mortality rate Rank in 2019

New York

5.44 49

Rhode Island

5.11 46

New Jersey

4.99 48


3.89 50


3.55 47

Only Five States Saw a Decline in Gun Deaths between 2019 and 2020

Nationally, the number of gun deaths increased by 13.9 percent between 2019 and 2020 which translates to an additional 1.63 gun deaths per 100,000 people. In nine states, firearm mortality increased by more than 3 people per 100,000. Only five states saw a decline in deaths between 2019 and 2020. New Hampshire experienced the largest decline in firearm mortality rates with 2.10 fewer deaths per 100,000 residents than in 2019.

Changes in Firearm Mortality Rates, by State
State Change in Firearm Mortality Rate (2020-2019)











National Average










New Hampshire


The Increase in Gun Deaths Is Driven by Homicides

The CDC mainly classifies firearms deaths as assault (homicide), self-harm (suicide), unintentional, or undetermined in the underlying cause of death database. There are additional special codes for firearms deaths related to law enforcement, war, and terrorism but they are less frequently used. The increase in gun deaths seen in 2020 was driven by an increase in homicides. Across the country, the overall firearm homicide rate increased from the previous year’s rate by over 30 percent, the largest single-year increase ever recorded. Over 90 percent of the increase in gun deaths is explained by the increase of homicides.

In 2020, the District of Columbia had the highest firearm homicide rate of any state, a rank it has held since 2013. The District’s 2020 homicide rate of 22.03 gun homicides per 100,000 residents was over fifteen times higher than the 2020 rate in Idaho, the state with the lowest homicide rate. Over the last year, DC experienced an additional 3.89 firearm homicide deaths per 100,000 residents compared to 2019. The states with the next highest firearm homicide rates were Mississippi (16.89), Louisiana (16.08), Alabama (11.46), and Missouri (11.1).

While the overall number of suicides decreased by 3 percent from 2019 to 2020, the number of suicides involving a gun increased by approximately 2 percent, reversing the 2 percent decrease seen from 2018 to 2019. As seen in 2019, Wyoming (21.98), Alaska (18.19), Montana (17.49), Idaho (15.16), and New Mexico (14.39) were the states with the highest gun suicide rates per 100,000 residents. Similar to the rates of total gun deaths, Massachusetts (1.94), New Jersey (2.04), Hawaii (2.20), New York (2.39), and Rhode Island (2.84) ranked as the five states with the lowest gun suicide rates.

Regional Differences in Overall Gun Death Rates

In 2020, the Northeastern region of the United States saw comparatively lower rates of all gun deaths, gun homicides, and gun suicides, than other regions. This continues a 20-year trend, with the Northeastern region experiencing the lowest overall rates of firearm mortality and the Southern region experiencing the highest. Like the rest of the nation, the Northeast saw a striking increase in gun violence; however, the increase in firearm mortality rates remained lower in comparison to all but four jurisdictions.

Regional Changes in Gun Deaths and Firearm Mortality Rates, 2019-2020
Gun Deaths Firearm Mortality Rates
Region 2019 2020 % Change 2019 2020 % Change


3,584 4,145 15.7% 6.4 7.4 1.0%


8,522 10,040 17.8% 12.5 14.7 2.2%


8,528 9,485 11.2% 10.9 12.1 1.2%


19,043 21,552 13.2% 15.2 17.0 1.9%

RGVRC Member States

3,291 3,923 19.2% 6.1 7.3 1.2%


36,416 41,299 13.4% 13.3 15.0 1.7%

The seven states participating in the Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium, experienced a less dramatic increase in rate of gun deaths per 100,000 residents than the nation as a whole. The firearm mortality rates in these states was half the rates of non-member states in both 2019 and 2020. These states join New York in having some of the strongest gun control laws in the country.


Julianna Caruso is a graduate assistant at the Rockefeller Institute of Government