The Republican Party and the National Rifle Association constantly state that the way to minimize deaths and injuries in mass shootings is to make sure more people are armed. They honestly state that the solution to American gun violence is to have more guns in the hands of citizens, not less. Like all the ridiculous ideas the GOP assert, their gun argument is not based on fact. Studies overwhelmingly show that states with the most restrictive gun laws are safer than those with the least restrictive gun laws.

Let’s use the two newest states – Alaska and Hawaii – as an example. In order to purchase a handgun in the Aloha State, one must have a permit, pass a background check, and have the gun registered. Furthermore, there is a 14-day waiting period. Hawaii does not have a “stand your ground” law, and it is almost impossible for an ordinary citizen to obtain either a concealed or an open carry permit.

Alaska has virtually no gun laws whatsoever. Anyone can walk into any store, plop down their cash, and walk out with a hand gun. They can carry it at will, either under a jacket or on the hip. Oh – and Alaska does have a “stand your ground” law.

In 2013 (the most recent year for which statistics is available), the death rate for gun victims in Hawaii was under three out of 100,000 persons. In Alaska, it was nearly 20 out of 100,000 persons.


Kristen Brand of the Violence Policy Center (VPC) doesn’t think so – and statistics back up her opinions on the issue. She told KHON (Honolulu) television news that “reducing exposure to firearms and having stronger gun laws saves lives.” She added:

Each year, the data consistently show that states with strong gun violence prevention laws and low rates of gun ownership have the lowest gun death rates in the nation. The highest gun death rates are in states with weak gun violence prevention laws and easy access to guns.

But don’t take Ms. Brand’s word for it – nor ours. Check out this chart, courtesy of the National Journal – and make up your own mind. The statistics overwhelmingly show that states with strict gun laws have the fewest shootings per population size, and those that have lenient gun laws have the highest number of shootings per population size.

But don’t expect any GOP lawmakers or candidates to give it even a cursory glance.

K.J. McElrath is a former history and social studies teacher who has long maintained a keen interest in legal and social issues. In addition to writing for The Ring of Fire, he is the author of two published novels: Tamanous Cooley, a darkly comic environmental twist on Dante's Inferno, and The Missionary's Wife, a story of the conflict between human nature and fundamentalist religious dogma. When not engaged in journalistic or literary pursuits, K.J. works as an entertainer and film composer.